Angelina Jolie is set to promote Maleficent in Shanghai on Tuesday, with her presence sure to give yet more gloss to the performance of the Disney live-action fairytale, which opened with a $170.6 million global box-office haul.
A big driver for the $70 million debut in North American theaters were girls and women. The female audience is also a key demographic for the movie in China.
Jolie will be accompanied on the trip by Brad Pitt, who will not take part in the promotional activities for Maleficent, which is due to bow in China on June 20.
Pitt’s presence is significant as he has been persona non grata in China since he played Heinrich Harrer in Seven Years in Tibet, a movie disliked by the Chinese authorities, as it includes an account of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 and subsequent ousting of the region’s religious leader, the Dalai Lama, long considered a dangerous separatist by Beijing.
Pitt was banned in China for his appearance in Seven Years of Tibet.
There are signs that relationships are thawing though. Seven Years in Tibet was directed by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud, who is currently directing Wolf Totem, which is backed by state-run film firm China Film Group.
Annaud’s status has shifted to that of a hero in China, with local media reporting tales of his befriending wolves during the shooting of the philosophical adventure story.
Last year, Pitt posted on the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, saying he would be coming to the country, but the message disappeared soon after.
Pitt’s World War Z didn’t make it into Chinese theaters, despite indications that it might, although the flesh-eating theme might have been the reason it didn’t clear that hurdle despite The Walking Dead being available online in China.
Chinese audiences increasingly reward stars who make the effort to come to China to promote a movie.
Twentieth Century Fox tentpole X-Men: Days of Future Past took nearly $40 million in its opening weekend after Hugh Jackman and Peter Dinklage came to Beijing for their promotional duties.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s profile also was highly visible in the country after Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone visited to promote the pic. Similarly, Johnny Depp‘s decision to come to China to promote Transcendence helped assure it made nearly as much here as it did in the U.S. in its opening weekend ($11.5 million in the U.S.).
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson came to Beijing to promote Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which made more than $108 million in China.