By Patrick Frater, Variety
8th February 2023 – (Shanghai) “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the first Marvel franchise movie to be released in mainland China for three years, made a quiet start in Chinese cinemas.
The film debuted Tuesday and grossed US$3.47 million according to ticketing agency Maoyan. That represented a 17% market share and a third place slot behind Chinese-produced box office leaders “The Wandering Earth II” and historical action drama “Full River Red.”
Based on social media activity, ticket buying and pre-sales for the next days, Maoyan has released a forecast that the film will enjoy a lifetime gross of RMB118 million ($17.3 million) in China. Forecasts are liable to significant change over the first few days of a film’s career and can be changed upwards or downwards.
The predicted career looks anemic compared with the score achieved by the first “Black Panther” movie which released in China in March 2018 and earned $105 million. But given the two-month gap since the film was released in the rest of the worlds, a short period for the film’s marketing in China and an unusual Tuesday release, the number is probably considered satisfactory.
“Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” will open later this month.
They are the first Marvel Studios films to release in mainland China since “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Titles such as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” have not been released.
Chinese authorities did not explain the Marvel ban officially and it became conflated with COVID restrictions and the ongoing cold war with the U.S. which anyway slowed the volume of Hollywood and U.S. independent films imported.
While Disney, because of its huge theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, is generally seen as warm to China, commentators were able to impute several political red lines which may have been crossed by Marvel films.
These include an allegedly racist depiction of a Chinese character in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” past interviews that were critical of China by “Eternals” director Chloe Zhao, and the position on Tibet taken by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” star Benedict Cumberbatch.