After just two weeks, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been pulled from Chinese theaters. In what has been viewed as a colossal flop, the film netted $29 million in its second weekend, which represented a 92% drop off from sales in the opening weekend. Jimmy Wu, chairman of nationwide Chinese cinema chain Lumiere Pavilions, told THR:
“The Last Jedi has already been completely pulled from cinemas here. It’s performed much worse than we could have expected.”
So what went wrong? Chinese market research that while Star Wars is a phenomenon in many places, China is not one of them. The original trilogy never got a widespread release within the country, so there’s no cultural legacy to get fans interested in the franchise. That said, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One did far better than TLJ in the country, but experts attribute that mostly to consumer curiosity and the appearances of Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in Rogue One. Even though these films were way more successful than The Last Jedi, both still fell well below Disney’s projected forecast for the film’s performance in the continent.
As for why TLJ might have specifically failed, some have indicated the film’s climax, which is heavily centered around Luke, fell flat with audiences. With the original trilogy having very little impact in China, people were likely confused as to who this guy was and why they should care about him. That’s actually kind of hilarious because I’m sure there are Chinese people confused as hell that so many Americans cared about the death of a guy chugging alien milk at the start of the film. Market researcher James Li also offered up an explanation saying:
“Because of the complex characters and themes, the prequels, and all of the multi-generational layers that are part of the culture, or cult, of Star Wars, it’s been hard for young Chinese filmgoers to get into the franchise.”
So, does Disney continue to shove Star Wars down China’s throats in the future, or do they just accept the fever is never going to catch on there?