Traditionally speaking, China has never been huge on the Star Wars IP (or western sci-fi in general)- probably stemming from the fact that the Original Trilogy wasn’t even released there back in the day. In fact, the one that started it all, Star Wars: A New Hope, didn’t get played in a Chinese theater until 2015! By and large, the bulk of their exposure to the series was through the Prequels. So they really missed the boat on the Star Wars phenomenon that began stateside over 40 years ago.
But even armed with that knowledge, it’s hard to fathom that Star Wars: The Last Jedi performed so badly there that it has been pulled from every theater in the country less than two weeks after its arrival.
“The Last Jedi has already been completely pulled from cinemas here,” Jimmy Wu, chairman of Chinese theater chain Lumiere Pavilions, told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s performed much worse than we could have expected.”
Indeed, Star Wars has been on the decline in China dating back to the 2015 release of The Force Awakens. While that film would make $936.6 Million dollars here in the states, in China it made $124 Million- which is actually fairly respectable, and probably gave Lucasfilm a sense that they could continue to expand the appeal of the series in the single most important foreign market in the industry. Then Rogue One came out, which included Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as prominent members of the ensemble cast. That film made just barely more than half what The Force Awakens made in China, pulling in $69 Million.
At the time of this writing, where it’s safe to say that the final tallies for Star Wars: The Last Jedi have been tabulated, the latest entry in the saga made only $38.7 Million. That’s roughly a third what The Force Awakens had done in that market only two years ago.
In a way, it mirrors what’s happening stateside, where the film is set to have a domestic haul that’s anywhere from $700-$800 Million less than The Force Awakens. Only it’s far more dramatic in the case of China, since Episode VII had given the studio a glimmer of hope that people over there were actually willing to give Star Wars a try, and now they’ve seemingly turned their backs on that galaxy far, far away.