When it’s a Star Wars movie, it’ll break the box office wide open. That’s been the way things went whenever a new film in the decades-spanning sci-fi saga – both in and out of universe – would premiere in cinemas worldwide. The Last Jedi seemed poised to do the same, until China.
Last week saw the long-awaited premiere of Star Wars Episode VIII in one of the largest cinema-going audiences globally. China was the last major market that the Disney-Lucasfilm movie was going to penetrate in its box-office run, only to be stymied by a popular local film release, “The Ex-File 3.”
Numbers were sobering; midnight previews earned only $560,000. That’s worse than the $2.5 million opening of The Force Awakens back in 2015, and nowhere near the $8.7 million from 2017’s The Fate of the Furious. “The X-File 3,” the Chinese film giving The Last Jedi trouble, earned $6.6 million on its first week compared to The Last Jedi’s $4 million.
Historically, Star Wars was never a prominent foreign feature in China, but The Last Jedi is having what is probably the worst-performing opening of the franchise yet. The film’s premiere in Chinese theaters was last Friday, December 29 of 2017.
The disparity is more obvious when one considers that The Last Jedi is showing on more cinema screens in China right now than its locally-produced competitor, 35.6% of the Chinese total to “The Ex-File 3” and its 32.3% share. Optimistic analysts think the Star Wars film might recover by Friday.
This prognosis is clouded by what is perceived as a decreasing Chinese interest in Star Wars as a whole. While Rogue One featured two popular Chinese actors, its early 2017 premiere in the country led to only a 35th-Place finish for the year with a $69.5 million box office take.
As a parting shot, “The Ex-File 3” is a Chinese comedy film, the franchise of which focuses on the misadventures of ex-girlfriends plotting hilarious vengeance upon boyfriends who have dumped them for other flings. Even worse, the subtitles of the second and current third films parody Star Wars episode names.