China has lifted its unofficial ban on Marvel titles, bestowing release dates for two major superhero tentpoles, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which was released everywhere else in the world last November, will open in China on Feb. 7. Shortly after, “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” will be released on Feb. 17, the same day the sequel touches down in the U.S. and the U.K. The dates were released via Marvel’s Chinese social media accounts.
Those movies will be the first Marvel adventures to play in China since 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” (which made a staggering $632 million in the territory) and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (which brought in $198 million in the territory). In the past, Marvel movies have been extremely popular in China, with “Black Panther” grossing $105 million and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” earning $121 million in the country.
It’s not just Marvel that’s been getting the cold shoulder from Disney. Very few Hollywood movies have gotten access to screen in Chinese movie theaters in the pandemic era. The thaw towards Disney films in the Middle Kingdom began late in 2022 with James Cameron’s magnum opus “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which got permission to play in the country from China’s Film Bureau. So far, the science-ficition tentpole has earned some $220 million in the territory.
It’s not clear why recent titles from Disney and other major studios have been denied release in China. But it is most likely sabre rattling directed towards the U.S. during a period of increased tensions, especially with jingoistic political events like the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and the 20th National Congress happening in 2021 and 2022 respectively.