China Box Office: 'Solo' Bombs With Third-Place $10.1M Opening

The Chinese audience has been consistently cold on Disney's 'Star Wars' films, but the sputtering start by 'Solo' is looking weak by any comparison.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
'Solo: A Star Wars Story'

The Millennium Falcon just malfunctioned and crashed to earth somewhere in China.

With one of the worst opening-weekend performances of any Hollywood tentpole in recent memory, Solo: A Star Wars Story earned just $10.1 million in its first frame in China, according to Disney and Lucasfilm. Industry estimates in Bejing had the total even lower at $9.8 million.

The sputtering start left the Han Solo origin story lagging in a distant third place behind two holdovers. Chinese romantic comedy How Long Will I Love U dominated with $24.2 million in its second weekend, while Avengers: Infinity War also trounced its fellow Disney title, earning approximately $17.6 million in its third frame. 

The Disney Star Wars films have continually disappointed in the Middle Kingdom (for a deeper dive on why, see here), but the franchise's trajectory in the country is beginning to resemble a death spiral.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned $52 million over a two-day opening frame in 2016 (a number already below Disney's forecasts, sources told THR at the time). A year later, Rogue One slipped to $31 million over a full three-day frame, despite co-starring Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, two of China's biggest actors. Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi fared even worse, earning $28.7 million for a second-place start behind a local hit comedy.

Chinese filmgoers have always been somewhat cold to fantasy sci-fi, but even some of the genre's biggest recent bombs did better than Solo's sub-$10 million opening. Paramount's Ghost in the Shell debuted to $21 million last year; and Sony's 2016 stinker Passengers started with $14.8 million. Even Star Trek Beyond brought in $30.5 million in its first weekend.

Given that China is back to robust double-digit growth and set to overtake North America as the world's biggest film market within a few years, Disney marketers certainly have their work cut out for them. But pleasing die-hard Star Wars fans in North America while finding a fresh way to appeal to Chinese moviegoers might take nothing less than a marketing miracle — maybe Boba Fett was Jackie Chan under the helmet all along?

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