Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have snagged Chinese release dates, but does Marvel need the Chinese box office anymore?
When the pandemic hit in 2020, it became apparent that movie studios would have to change how they approached the global box office because China, which was already limiting the number of titles they would show in the country, began to place even more limitations. You could no longer depend on the Chinese box office to “save you” if you completely bombed at the domestic box office. Marvel Studios has been coming to terms with China no longer factoring into a film’s success or failure since before the pandemic since one of its films hasn’t been shown in the country since 2019 and Spider-Man: Far From Home. However, it appears that things are changing since, according to Deadline, both Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania have both secured Chinese release dates. Black Panther will be released on February 7th, while Ant-Man and the Wasp will release on February 17th.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever likely won’t pull huge numbers since that is after the streaming release, and there are probably illegal copies of the film online already, but Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a different story. That is the same release date as North America, and that could pull in some decent numbers for Marvel Studios. However, the question is, does Marvel Studios still need the Chinese box office to succeed? If you look at the box office numbers for all of the films that have been released since China stopped taking Marvel films, the conclusion isn’t strictly black and white. Here are the films that have been released since China stopped taking Marvel films and the worldwide box office:
One might look at those first three numbers and think that, of course, Marvel still needs China, but context is everything. All three of those films were released during the latter half of 2021 when we were still fighting against COVID-19, and many people didn’t feel comfortable going out into the world. The box office numbers show the jump from when people are comfortable to when they weren’t. However, even with those smaller numbers, those are not bad numbers by any stretch. While the three lower-grossing films didn’t make much money, they were certainly profitable in the end. With the state of the box office at the time and the fact that these films were budgeted with the unsustainable numbers of the 2018/2019 box office in mind, those numbers are not bad for a franchise that has this amount of goodwill.
Ever since 2022 started, the box office has been in recovery, and while it didn’t happen overnight, it is happening, and it happened without the help of the Chinese box office. This is not to say that Disney and Marvel wouldn’t love the extra money that would come from the second biggest movie-going audience in the world; this is a business that wants profits at the end of the day, but gone are the days when the Chinese box office is the make or break of a film. Studios have learned there is no guarantee that your movie will do well in China, let alone get a release date, so they are making films without even considering that box office in terms of success. It’s the right move because if you snag a day-to-date release like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania did, it is likely a surprise to even Marvel Studios that it happened; that is one hell of a bonus.
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