Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is off to an inauspicious start in China, its final major box-office test.
The prior two Star Wars films underperformed in China, but the early results for The Last Jedi, which finally debuted locally on Friday, look even worse than expected.
The film earned $560,000 (3.65 million RMB) in midnight previews, well behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ $2.5 million (16 million RMB) previews score — and way behind The Fate of the Furious‘ record $8.7 million preview total (60 million RMB) in 2017.
Worse still, Friday’s early box-office results have The Last Jedi clearly losing to local comedy The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes. As of 4:30 p.m., Beijing time, The Last Jedi had earned approximately $5 million (33 million RMB) compared to Ex-Files 3‘s $11.6 million (75 million RMB), according to data from mobile ticketing service Maoyan.
The results came despite The Last Jedi getting substantially more screens — approximately a 35.6 percent share of all Chinese screens — compared to Ex-File‘s 32.3 percent (again, as of 4:30 p.m. Friday). And adding insult to injury: Ex-File opened in China a full week ago.
The Ex-File franchise was created by comedy writer-turned-director Tian Yusheng. The franchise tells a series of stories about ex-girlfriends who enact revenge upon badly behaving ex-boyfriends. Ironically, the Chinese films echo the classic Star Wars movies in their titles: the second film is Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back (2015, $38.9 million) and the third, currently dominating Last Jedi, is titled The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes.
It’s possible Last Jedi could mount a comeback by the end of Friday, but the chances are looking very slim.
The Last Jedi‘s current global gross to date is $1.11 billion (The Force Awakens earned $2.06 billion in total; Rogue One took $1.06).
The Star Wars franchise’s challenges in China are well established by now (see here for a deeper dive). The Force Awakens earned $124 million in the Middle Kingdom in 2016, but that was only enough to rank 13th in China for the year, a soft finish compared to its all-time number-one showing in North America ($936.6 million).
Perhaps most troubling for Disney, the Chinese audience seems to be liking the Star Wars universe less and less. Despite featuring two Chinese stars, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earned just $69.5 million for a 35th place finish last year (after, again coming in first place in North America).
Meanwhile, the Chinese box office continues to grow. In 2017, ticket revenue in China expanded 13.5 percent to hit a record $8.6 billion, as the country edged ever closer to supplanting North America as the largest theatrical market in the world.