You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Will the Force Be With ‘The Last Jedi’ in China?

There’s little doubt that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will attract a following in China, where it opens this Friday. How big a following is the question.

China is the last major market to release “The Last Jedi,” three weeks after its bow in the U.S. and other major territories. Globally, the movie is now the 19th-biggest moneymaker of all time, with a worldwide total of $1.09 billion to the end of Tuesday. Its performance in China will determine how much further up the rankings it goes, and how close it gets to the $2.07 billion haul two years ago of “The Force Awakens.”

Disney, the leading Hollywood studio in China last year, has pulled out the marketing stops for “The Last Jedi” in the Middle Kingdom, mindful that the “Star Wars” franchise doesn’t quite inspire the same event-movie awe there as it does elsewhere. “The Force Awakens” earned $124 million in China; spinoff movie “Rogue One,” which featured Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in significant roles, took $69.5 million.

By waiting till Friday, “The Last Jedi” will be the first Hollywood spectacular to open in China since the country’s late-December blackout period, when only local-language titles are permitted major outings. Disney pressed Chinese authorities for the later opening date rather than one in the crowded first half of December. The film is set for a gargantuan release on 25,000 screens, enough to give more than 130,000 showings a day; a strong opening weekend is essential, with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” releasing only a week later.

Although Hollywood studios are required to sub-distribute through a state-owned company, they can supplement with their own co-marketing spend and tailored efforts. Disney, which boasts its Shanghai theme park and a muscular consumer products business in China, is in prime position to do so. “The Last Jedi’s” marketing campaign attached trailers to all of the major local blockbusters during the blackout period. An exclusive collaboration with Wanda, China’s leading cinema chain, promoted the “Star Wars Art Zone” in 110 multiplexes nationwide. A traveling event visited eight malls in the top seven box office cities.

Before Christmas, stars Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill, director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman went to Shanghai to promote the movie ahead of a red-carpet event and China premiere at Shanghai Disney Resort on Dec. 20. Ridley used that visit to shoot cover photos for an issue of women’s magazine Grazia China, which is now out in time for the movie’s opening weekend.

Other marketing tie-ins were with Pepsi, Samsung and Renault, while digital partnerships were struck with Alibaba-owned streaming platform Youku, which launched a “Star Wars” zone on New Year’s Day; with Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce and ticketing platform; and with Pi Tu, a leading camera-filter app.

One commentator has even suggested that recent aspects of the “Star Wars” storyline bear a strong resemblance to the founding mythology of the Chinese Communist Party. Both involve the establishment of a new order that replaces a moribund dynasty, and see rebels scurrying off into exile.

Whether that will actually help “The Last Jedi” connect with Chinese audiences is debatable. But the new film does use first-of-its-kind character description subtitling and an expanded interpretation of dialogue, so that moviegoers who are new to the galaxy far, far away can catch up with the backstory and earlier character development.

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content