Something I've been tracking here on LRM for the last couple of weeks is how well Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is going to do financially. We already know it's a critical success, and we already know that fans are high on the first standalone film set in the Star Wars galaxy. But coming a year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke all kinds of records, many have wondered how Rogue One would compare. And I'm not just referring to fans and bean counters. Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy has said that the relative success of Rogue One will heavily influence how the company proceeds with the Star Wars franchise post-Episode IX.
A nationwide health hazard in China could become a major part of Rogue One's ultimate fate...
See, up to this point, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has earned a global cume of $829 million as it approaches the start of its fourth weekend. That pushes it past Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in terms of 2016 releases, but is still a far cry from the $2+ billion that The Force Awakens made. While no one realistically expected Rogue One to do Force Awakens numbers, it was still hoped that the film would pass the Billion mark and, with a very international cast, Lucasfilm was banking on a big overseas turnout.
China, as you may know, is the #2 market in the world when it comes to box office. A film that flops in the U.S. can be saved by a great performance in China. That's how large of a dent that country makes. So coming into this weekend, folks were expecting China to help push Rogue One over the top. And yet, due to unforeseen circumstances- combined with a few other factors about the history of Star Wars in China- things no longer look particularly rosy.
A heavy blanket of what's being described as "apocalyptic" smog is covering China at the moment. It's got people scared, staying at home, and thinking of anything other than going out to the movies. It affected last weekend's receipts, as box office figures were down 23% in China compared to last year at the same time. The parts of China affected the most by the smog had a dip of 34%, while the parts affected the least only dropped 13%. So this current health hazard is definitely making an impact on China's moviegoing public.
When you combine that with the fact that, traditionally speaking, China has never been huge on the Star Wars IP (or western sci-fi in general)- probably stemming from the fact that the Original Trilogy wasn't even released there back in the day- and there's not a very good reason to think that Rogue One is going to have a great weekend when it opens there tonight.
It's a shame, too, because of all of the Star Wars films that have been made, Rogue One probably has the broadest appeal because of its diverse cast which includes Chinese stars: Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang.
So we'll see, come Monday morning, once the smoke (err...smog) clears, how Rogue One: A Star Wars fared in China. But as things stand right now, Lucasfilm and co. are far less optimistic than they probably were when they initially slotted the film for a Chinese release.