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Feb 7, 2023, 1:00am EST
East Asia

Marvel is returning to China after 4 years. Here’s how its movies have done

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The News

After nearly four years, a Marvel movie — Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — will release in China’s theaters on Tuesday; Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be out on Feb. 17.

While China’s 1.4 billion population makes it an incredibly lucrative market for Hollywood, some reports and Weibo reviews suggest that given its late release, many may have already pirated the Black Panther sequel, or might not be that enthusiastic to watch it. The movie has so far only generated about $70,000 in pre-sales.

Here’s a look at how other Marvel movies have performed in China over the years.

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A trailer for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" plays at a cinema in Beijing, China, on Feb. 6, 2023.
REUTERS/Thomas Peter
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The Rankings

Since the 2012 release of The Avengers, China has been the second most-valuable market for the Marvel franchise, just behind the U.S. and Canada, (treated as one market), CNBC reported.

The last Marvel movie to release in China was 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. After that, China stopped the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings over past comments by its Chinese-born star Simu Liu, as well as the comic books’ racist history.

Starting in 2021, China had a blackout period for foreign movies and only pushed for the distribution of domestically-produced films, meaning Marvel’s Black Widow, Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder were never approved for release in the country.

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In recent years, China has frequently contributed more than 15% of worldwide sales for the Marvel franchise.

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Know More

Since abandoning zero-COVID lockdowns, China’s box office has roared back to life, largely bolstered by several long-anticipated domestic movies released during the Lunar New Year holiday season.

But Comic Book Resources — a site that tracks news about superhero franchises — reported that the upcoming Black Panther and Ant-Man movies could flop at the box office, with Chinese fans apparently not as intrigued about the movies compared to others from the franchise.

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According to Maoyan — China’s largest movie ticket seller — Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has so far generated only about $70,000 in pre-sales.

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The View From Weibo

Marvel‘s official Weibo account on Monday promoted the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, telling fans that they could win action figures if they shared their movie review after watching.

“The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back, and the big screen will be there,” the post said.

On the thread, many users shared their enthusiasm about the release.

“Ok, I’ll see you at the cinema tomorrow,” wrote one person. “After waiting for you for three and a half years, you’re here, finally,” posted another.

Several Weibo users, who appeared to have already watched the movie likely after pirating it or using a VPN, shared their reviews.

While plenty said the film was not bad, some called it “boring” citing the absence of characters like Iron Man and Captain America from the franchise.

“The plot changes and the motivations of the characters are questionable, and the growth of the characters is also a bit hasty,” one user wrote.

Weibo review on Black Panther
康斯坦丁/Weibo

“It has no amazing heroic character, no convincing rescue story, and it doesn’t seem to be simply black and white,” another reviewer wrote. “The memory of the Black Panther is very touching and is a bright spot. But it ultimately makes people sigh that although the Marvel universe after the first generation has developed countless branches, there are no core characters anymore.”

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