Star Wars, Global Sequelitis, and the Chinese Box Office

The Hollywood  Reporter is among the news outlets highlighting some disappointments in the Star Wars franchise's latest box office showing, observing that The Last Jedi has earned less in its Chinese midnight previews than previous installment The Force Awakens, and is losing out overall to domestic Chinese comedy, The Ex-File 3. Sourcing ticketing service Maoyan, THR says Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi earned $5 million USD from the Chinese market as of Friday afternoon, so far losing out to Ex-File 3's $11.6 million.  This is Ex-File's second week in Chinese theaters.  Describing the Ex-File franchise, THR's Patrick Brzeski says it "tells a series of stories about ex-girlfriends who enact revenge upon badly behaving ex-boyfriends." During its Thursday previews, Episode VIII pulled in $560,000 USD, compared to Force Awakens' $2.5 million during this period two years ago. In 2016, Force Awakens came in 13th in Chinese box office, earning $124 million. The following year, Rogue One placed 35th with $69.5 million. (Comparatively, the Star Wars movies have consistently come in first place each year in North America since Disney relaunched the franchise). "Ironically," Brezski notes, the Ex-File sequels have been called "Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back" and "Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes." Meanwhile, in the domestic market, Bloomberg observes Sony Pictures' Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is expected to bring in about $7 million more than Last Jedi this weekend, totaling around $32 million. Reporter Anousha Sakoui hedges a bit toward the end, admitting that Episode VIII is in its fourth frame while Jumanji is in its third. Last Jedi also remains top of the box office for 2017, the leader of only four movies to pull in more than $200 million domestically. In short - many more people went to go see The Last Jedi already. Regardless, the narrative is shaping up to present some interesting business challenges for Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm, and Disney. Jumanji is 2018's first surprise success story, which can help Sony turn around its recent negative narrative. And the Chinese market proves to be more complex than originally estimated, with domestic comedies featuring women leads putting up a fight to Hollywood export goliaths.

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