China is currently the largest box office in the world. The pandemic is a major factor in this, but in 2020, China overtook the U.S. for the box office mantle.
Historically, Marvel Studios films have performed very well in China. Most recently, Spider-Man: Far from Home made nearly $200 million, and Avengers: Endgame made roughly $629 million at the Chinese box office.
This massive percentage of the global box office may not be available to the upcoming MCU film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The film has already been criticized after the release of its first trailer, and lead actor Simu Liu responded to the criticism with a video message spoken in Mandarin directed at Chinese fans.
A new report indicates that Shang-Chi may not be the only MCU film to have trouble being released in China.
SHANG-CHI AND ETERNALS NOT RELEASING IN CHINA?
A new report from Variety revealed that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals weren't included in an upcoming MCU movie list for the CCTV6 China Movie Channel.
Eternals director Chloe Zhao was born in China but has been critical of the country, calling it “a place where there are lies everywhere.” Chinese authorities blacked out the news when Zhao won the Academy Award for Best Director and removed Nomadland from being released to Chinese theaters.
Variety cites Fu Manchu, an original villain and father of Shang-Chi in the comics, as a lingering embodiment of the “Yellow Peril” stereotype. Despite Fu Manchu not being in the movie, Variety wrote that some in China are not aware that Fu Manchu will be re-worked in Shang-Chi and that some may not care anyhow.
A RECIPE FOR BOX OFFICE DISASTER
The Chinese box office has been open since July 2020 and has even set new records this year. The biggest release so far in 2021, Godzilla vs. Kong, has made over double the amount of money in China as it has at the domestic box office ($187,900,000 compared to $93,018,000, respectively).
The uncertainty at the box office made Disney change its initial plans for Black Widow, and it will now release on Disney+'s Premier Access and in theaters on July 9. Shang-Chi is the next MCU film set to release on September 3, but missing out on the Chinese box office would be a major blow to its return to a theatrical only release.
Eternals is in a similar situation, only releasing a few months later on November 5. Despite being a favorite for Best Picture at the 2022 Academy Awards, Zhao's latest film may underperform at the box office without China.
Marvel Studios is a well-thought-out movie studio and could have already anticipated these roadblocks and adjusted its expectations. In a year when theaters are slowly refilling with film fans, this is not the best time to lose out on the biggest box office in the world.
Marvel and Disney will likely rely heavily on the domestic box office and other smaller markets, but don't be surprised if these two films also release on Disney+ much like Black Widow.
Coming off a record-breaking year in 2019, the box office is as fragile as its ever been since the global pandemic. Look out for juggernaut films like Fast and Furious 9 on June 25 and Black Widow on July 9 to continue testing the waters of the next few months that could affect the eventual release of Shang-Chi and Eternals.