The Marvels, the latest offering from Marvel Studios, got off to a disappointing start at the North American box office last weekend. The movie only raked in $47 million, making it the lowest-earning opening for a Marvel Studios release. This has led industry analysts to express concerns about superhero fatigue and its impact on major studios. However, this is not the first time that American superhero movies have underperformed at the Chinese box office.
In China, The Marvels only managed to bring in $11.5 million during its opening weekend, losing to the local crime thriller Who’s the Suspect, which earned $11.7 million. Including Thursday night previews, The Marvels’ four-day total creeps up to $11.8 million. This disappointing performance is a far cry from the $89.3 million opening of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel in 2019, which went on to gross $154 million in China. Current projections indicate that The Marvels is unlikely to surpass the $20 million mark in China.
The Chinese market has also been less receptive to other Marvel releases in recent years. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which was a success in North America with a $359 million box office haul, only managed to earn $27.8 million in China. Similarly, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania brought in $39.4 million in China, a significant drop from the $121 million total of the previous Ant-Man installment in 2018.
The declining performance of American studio franchises in China is not limited to superhero movies. While Fast X and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts fared relatively well at the Chinese box office, the earnings of these movie franchises were significantly lower than that of their previous installments. On the other hand, original films like Oppenheimer and Barbie, as well as local movies like Who’s The Suspect, have managed to resonate better with Chinese audiences.
China’s growing lack of interest in American blockbusters has raised concerns among U.S. studios. The remaining hope for an improved performance at the Chinese box office will be pinned on the upcoming release of Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which is set to open in China on the same day as in North America.
Despite the box office woes, Hollywood remains optimistic about the Chinese market and will continue to pursue opportunities in the region. Whether this renewed interest will lead to improved results for Hollywood films in China remains to be seen. As the movie landscape continues to evolve, it is clear that American blockbuster franchises will have to work harder to win over Chinese audiences.