“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will hit Chinese theaters Dec. 20, day-and-date with the U.S.
While Marvel films are typically outsized hits in China, the “Star Wars” franchise has historically under-performed in the territory. Chinese audiences are less familiar with it because the original films were not theatrically released in the ’70s, when Western cultural imports were scarce as the country tried to bounce back from its Cultural Revolution era.
“The Force Awakens” performed worse than expectations in 2016 but nevertheless grossed a sizable $124 million in China. The 2017 spinoff “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” grossed $69 million, while last year’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “The Last Jedi” made just $16.5 million and $42.5 million, respectively.
Disney has sought to build more grass-roots love for the franchise with various stunts and partnerships, such as placing 500 storm troopers on the Great Wall for a photo op to promote “The Force Awakens.” More recently, the company hooked up with China’s largest online publisher, Tencent’s China Literature, in October to develop a totally new but canonical Chinese “Star Wars” Internet novel and release 40 older e-books in Chinese for the first time.
“The Rise of Skywalker” is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac, Richard E. Grant, Domhnall Gleeson and Keri Russell. It will also feature appearances from original cast actors Mark Hamill and, via previously shot footage, Carrie Fisher, although she died in 2016.