LOS ANGELES — There is no generational nostalgia for the characters. The January release date allowed piracy to flourish online, cutting into ticket sales. Hollywood imports are losing their luster as local studios become more skilled at making blockbuster-style movies.
Whatever the reason, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Disney) collapsed in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, arriving this weekend to estimated ticket sales over three days of $28.7 million. To compare, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” took in $53 million over its first two days in Chinese cinemas in 2016. Last year, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” managed $31 million over its first three days.
Disney promoted “The Last Jedi” extensively in China, staging a red carpet premiere at the Shanghai Disney Resort, replete with a squadron of Stormtroopers, and securing marketing partnerships with companies like Pepsi, Alibaba, Samsung and Youku. But the efforts fell flat: “The Last Jedi” was no match for a holdover local comedy, “The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes,” which took in an estimated $86.7 million.
Dave Hollis, Disney’s president of distribution, acknowledged on Sunday that the China results were softer than the studio had hoped for. Disney declined to comment further.
“The Last Jedi,” of course, has been a smash hit almost everywhere else. After four weeks of release, the movie has collected $1.21 billion worldwide, with North American audiences contributing $572.5 million.
Hollywood will try again in China next weekend, when “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony) is scheduled for release. There is reason for Sony to be optimistic. “Jumanji,” a visual-effects-driven comedy led by Dwayne Johnson, has already delivered better-than-expected results elsewhere in the world, including in North America, where it ranked No. 1 over the weekend, with estimated ticket sales of $36 million.
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