“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” from Marvel Studios.
Marvel movies return to China in February, marking the first time in nearly four years that Disney’s comic book movie universe will be released in the country.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” hits Chinese theaters on February 7, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” releases on February 17. The reopening of the Chinese market is likely to be a boon for it disney in the long run, but box office analysts are concerned that these upcoming February releases may fail to generate substantial ticket sales due to online piracy and a recent Covid surge.
China has been a critical distribution center for Hollywood blockbusters, especially those connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since 2012’s “The Avengers,” China has become the second-highest-grossing box office market for all Marvel films, just behind the US and Canada.
“It’s a welcome dose of positive news for Disney and the industry as a whole, considering how much money is left on the table with no Chinese releases for recent Marvel movies,” said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Global releases can’t really be global in the absence of such a large market.”
The last Marvel movie to open in China was 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home”. The de facto ban took effect in 2021, when “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” became the first film in the MCU not to receive approval for distribution in the country, and only the second not to be released in the region. The underlying controversy stemmed from the film’s casting and the perception of the comic book series on which “Shang-Chi” is based.
The release of ‘Black Widow’ in 2021 coincided with a blackout period in China in which the country is keeping theaters open for local productions and excluding foreign films. Therefore, although it was approved for distribution, it failed to make it to Chinese theaters.
In addition, “Eternals”, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” were not approved for release in China, nor was the Sony-Disney co-production “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will break that pattern. But since it was released in other markets in November, it’s likely experienced a wave of online piracy because it wasn’t available to the Chinese public. While moviegoers will still attend screenings, the film may not see the same amount of ticket sales as it did with a previous release.
There are also concerns about muted ticket sales from China as coronavirus has once again rocked the region since the government lifted its “zero Covid” policy. The market would become a major source of revenue for releases such as “Avatar: The Way of Water” by Disney and James Cameron, but it performed below expectations.
At the moment, the film has generated about 11% of its total worldwide gross from China, or about $214 million. By comparison, the first “Avatar” collected about $250 million in ticket sales during its run in 2009 and 2010.
If the region’s Covid wave dies down, “Quantumania” could get a welcome ticket boost. The previous two Ant-Man solo films generated 20% of their box office from China.
Additionally, while previous Ant-Man movies have had smaller global box office numbers compared to other movies in the MCU – 2015’s “Ant-Man” scored $519 million and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” hit $622 million. – “Quantumania” is expected to attract more moviegoers as it features the MCU’s newest major villain, Kang.
Kang, played by “Lovecraft Country” star Jonathan Majors, is the next overarching villain of the MCU and is expected to remain a menacing threat throughout the Multiverse Saga, spanning Phases Four, Five, and Six of the franchise. He was introduced in the Disney+ show ‘Loki’.
“The feature-film debut of one of the most dynamic and intriguing characters in the MCU, Kang the Conqueror in the movie, could propel his potential worldwide earnings into the $1 billion realm, which would be a first for ‘Ant-Man’- movies,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “And with the addition of the Chinese market, the planets could align to make ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ the first global megahit of 2023.”