Published March 3, 2016
Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the Great Wall (Photo Credit: The Walt Disney)
By Michael Zakkour,
Vice President China/Asia Pacific Practice Leader, Tompkins International
When Star Wars was released in the U.S. in 1977, China was a broken, impoverished, country reeling from the Cultural Revolution and seeking ways to rejoin the “Republic” of nations. To many Chinese alive at the time, the China of today must look much like the Star Wars Universe looked 40 years ago to American moviegoers. Full of unimaginable technologies, bullet trains and jets whizzing people around and avant-garde fashions replacing Mao suits. Disney has embraced the new China and is bringing Star Wars, its newest and perhaps most valuable franchise, to the Middle Kingdom.
On Oct. 21, 2015 Disney staged a massive promotional event near Beijing, that featured 500 Stormtroopers marching on the Great Wall and thousands of red and blue light sabers (given to fans) bathing the 2,000 year old bricks in a futuristic hue. Additionally, giant signs placed on the guard towers spelled out “The Force Awakens.” This follows a deal that Disney and 20th Century Fox signed with China’s Internet and technology giant Tencent that will give the country’s 650 million Internet users (known as netizens) full access to the six previously released Star Wars films. Tencent has also created a Star Wars portal for fans to dive headlong into the lives and adventures of Han, Luke, Leia, and Yoda. And, of course, where they can shop for Star Wars merchandise. All of this comes at a time when China has become the most important market for Hollywood outside of the United States. Transformers, Jurassic World, and Avatar all rank within the top ten highest grossing movies of all time in China. The China box office has even moved studios to write and edit scripts specifically so that they will be approved for release in China. For example, the remake of Red Dawn was changed so that the country invading the U.S., which was originally China, became North Korea. In the case of The Force Awakens no changes were needed. It is likely that ticket sales in China will help make the movie one of the highest grossing in history because China has fully rejoined the galaxy of advanced, entertainment hungry nations.
Some film industry analysts predict “The Force Awakens” could generate $2 billion in global box office, ensuring its place in movie history alongside all-timers like Avatar and Titanic.
China’s Box Office Top Ten for 2015:
- Furious 7 – $391 M
- Avengers 2 – $236 M
- Jurassic World – $203 M
- The Man from Macau 2 – $157 M
- The Hobbit 3 – $124 M
- Dragon Blade – $120 M
- Wolf Totem – $112 M
- San Andreas – $100 M
- Wolf Warrior – $88 M
- Stand by Me Doraemon – $86 M
Source: Artisan Gateway