Why Shang-Chi doesn’t have a China release date, why it’s such a big deal

Why Shang-Chi doesn't have a China release date, why it's such a big deal

Simu Liu played the role of Shang-Chi in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.

Disney

When “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” debuts in theaters on Friday, it will be the first time a Marvel movie has aired exclusively in theaters since the pandemic began, but it won’t be able to find its way. way in a large international market. There is absence. Talk about box office analysts.

“Shang-Chi” is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe not to be approved for distribution in China, and only the second film not to be released in the country. The underlying controversy comes from the film’s casting and the notion of a “Shang-Chi” based comic book series.

The absence of the Chinese box office means that “Shang-Chi” leaves a huge amount on the table. Since “The Avengers” in 2012, China is the second highest grossing box office for all Marvel films, behind the United States and Canada.

With a theatrical-only release and a franchise of 24 blockbuster movies, there’s no doubt that “Shang-Chi” will top the box office in the US and Canada this weekend. It can even claim to be the biggest Labor Day weekend opening of all time.

But China is a major market for its size. Before the pandemic, China had the world’s second-largest box office, generating $ 8.67 billion in annual ticket sales, according to comScore data. Additionally, delays in releasing popular films in China often expose a film to a high level of piracy.

“Marvel is a franchise that has immense appeal almost everywhere, and these films owe much of their international box office success to ticket sales generated by China,” said Sean Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com . “10-20% of a Marvel movie’s worldwide revenue could come from the Middle Kingdom alone. “

Marvel has reached this benchmark since 2013. In the early years of the Marvel franchise, China accounted for between 2% and 6% of total box office sales.

For the 2019 release of “Avengers: Endgame,” Disney made its debut with domestic and Chinese audiences over the same weekend. The result was the longest opening weekend in cinema history. During its broadcast, 22% of ticket sales came from China.

“The growth of the Chinese motion picture market over the past decade has been impressive; essentially tripled in terms of revenue since 2012 and has become a major destination for many US blockbusters that often depend on the country’s box office earning power. to take them to the next level, ”said Paul Dergarbedian, senior media analyst at comScore.

In its domestic debut, “Shang-Chi” would not benefit from these ticket sales, as its release has yet to be approved in China by government officials. The region does not have a free market for cinema and all films made abroad must pass censorship in order to be distributed locally.

China has strict rules on content and removes anything that violates its core socialist values ​​or damages its nationalist image. The country recently stepped up its crackdown on its own entertainment industry, calling on broadcasters to ban artists with “false political positions” and to disinfect genres of programming in an attempt to cultivate a “more patriotic atmosphere”. noted.

“Black Widow” was cleared for airing in the country, but its release date coincided with the blackout period in China. In July, the country leaves theaters open to local productions and excludes foreign films. This year, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party, the programming of non-Chinese films has been further affected. The occasion gave rise to a month-long period of censorship in all media.

Sadly, the massive piracy of “Black Widow” after its release in domestic theaters and via streaming could mean that it will never be played in China.

“Having full pirated copies of a major film circulating is never good for business and is of constant concern to the entire film industry,” Dergarabedian said.

Box office analysts speculated that “Shang-Chi” would be taken off the record due to its source material. The comics the film is based on have been seen as racist and filled with low-quality stereotypes. While Marvel chief Kevin Feige has gone out of his way to address all concerns about representation in the upcoming film, that might not be enough to get it to hit Chinese theaters.

Marvel’s “Eternal” may also suffer a similar fate, although the reason for its denial is quite different. The film is directed by Chloe Zhao, who recently became a non-person in China after previous comments about the country surfaced online. The backlash wiped his name and accomplishments from the Chinese web.

That leaves “Spider-Man: No Way Home” as the next potential Marvel film to hit theaters across the country. Spider-Man’s last two independent films have performed well in China, with sales of $ 117.5 million and $ 204.9 million in 2017 and 2019 respectively. These films received 13% and 18% of their box office receipts from China.

The demand to see the Marvel movie on the big screen may bring audiences in droves to theaters when it releases in December.

Correction: “Avengers: Endgame” accounted for 22% of the $ 2.8 billion in ticket sales, or $ 627.2 million, from China. An earlier version of this story misjudged the value of the sale in China.

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