For better or for worse, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been a giant box office success in the United States and the United Kingdom, despite the divisiveness from fans and critics alike. However, the franchise’s latest installment has not fared well in China, opening at $28.7 million USD and dropping to $2.4 million USD the following week. As a result, Chinese theaters will be yanking The Last Jedi due to its underperformance.
Despite The Force Awakens raking in $124 million USD and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earning $69 million USD soon after, the momentum has dropped significantly for the former’s follow-up film, making it the country’s biggest Hollywood bomb since Johnny Depp‘s The Lone Ranger. The chairman of China’s Lumiere Pavilions cinema Jimmy Wu has stated: “It’s performed much worse than we could have expected. Star Wars has no legacy here. It will require something fresh to win back the Chinese audience.”
The legacy of Star Wars doesn’t resonate as much as it does in the United States as it does overseas in China, a huge factor being the original trilogy never released there during the ’70s when it premiered. In fact, the original Star Wars trilogy didn’t release in China until 2015. James Li, co-founder of Beijing market research company Fanink says the audience in China just isn’t into the lore. “Because of the complex characters and themes, the prequels, and all of the multi-generational layers that are part of the culture, or cult, of Star Wars, it’s been hard for young Chinese film-goers to get into the franchise.” The Force just isn’t strong enough there.