International ticket sales are now key for almost any major blockbuster, and China is a key market for the biggest movies of the year. Disney has been disappointed by Star Wars’ poor showing in China, so much so that the upcoming Han Solo movie “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is getting a new title in advance of release in May.
While “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” have been record-smashing successes in the United States, they have underperformed at the box office in China. The Last Jedi took in only $41 million in China over just three weeks of wide screening. Without seizing a significant share of ticket sales at the Chinese box office it’s difficult for an expensive picture to hit the sky-high gross revenues demanded by armchair analysts. Sluggish showings in China have dampened “The Last Jedi’s” success relative to “The Force Awakens.” According to Chinese film analyst Gavin Feng, Disney has responded to this trend by renaming the film “Ranger Solo”—Star Wars no longer included.
Whether or not the new title presages any other changes to the film’s Chinese marketing campaign or box office reception remains to be seen. Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises in movie history and, for now, its underwhelming appeal in China is unlikely to shift Disney’s efforts to pump out as many Star Wars movies as possible.