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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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