‘The Last Jedi’ Gets a Lackluster Welcome in China

Updated on
  • Opening weekend was less than previous two Star Wars films
  • In U.S., ‘Last Jedi’ falls to third place after weeks on top

A Stormtrooper poses at the red carpet for the Chinese premiere of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai on Dec. 20.

Photographer: Chandan Khana/AFP via Getty Images 

Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” brought in an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend in China, coming in below its two predecessors in the world’s fastest-growing market.

That brings the global haul for “The Last Jedi” to $1.21 billion, the Burbank, California-based company said Sunday. It makes the film a success even if it doesn’t reach the heights of 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” which rang up $2.07 billion worldwide. Disney has been trying to build an audience for “Star Wars” in China, where moviegoers didn’t grow up with the original trilogy, and by that measure the new film fell short. “The Force Awakens” brought in $52.3 million when it opened there.

The last “Star Wars” movie to open in China, “Rogue One,” generated $30 million in its opening, outside the top 100 movie debuts in the country, according to Box Office Mojo. “The Force Awakens” was the 41st. Universal Pictures’ “The Fate of the Furious” holds the record for the biggest debut weekend in China with $185 million.

Disney has had more success with its Marvel comic-book movies in China, where universally understood action scenes and simpler story lines tend to translate better, according to James Li, co-founder of the Beijing-based consulting firm Fanink Research. “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” had the third-biggest debut on record.

“Word of mouth is dismal and worse than the previous films,” Jonathan Papish, an analyst at China Film Insider, a website that reports on the industry, tweeted after Thursday night previews from China showed “The Last Jedi” lagging predecessors. “The Last Jedi” was challenged for the top spot by “The Ex-File: The Return of the Exes,” the third installment in a hugely popular romantic comedy series about a group of bachelors, in its second weekend in theaters.

Disney shares declined 1.4 percent to $110.02 at the close in New York. The stock rose 3.2 percent last year.

In the U.S., meanwhile, audiences are beginning to move on from Star Wars -- at least until Disney unleashes “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in May. The top weekend film in North America was “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” Sony Pictures’ action-comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with $37.2 million. “The Last Jedi” placed third, with $23.7 million.

“Jumanji” had been projected to reap $32 million, according to BoxOfficePro.com. The surprise hit had brought in more than $350 million worldwide before the weekend, holding its own in the shadow of “Star Wars.” Sony is already considering a sequel.

The weekend’s only major new release, Universal Pictures’ horror sequel “Insidious: The Last Key,” placed second with $29.6 million. BoxOfficePro had estimated $16.8 million.

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