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Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker has been set for a December 20 China release, in step with domestic. This marks a change from the saga’s recent holiday installments which have each bowed in the Middle Kingdom in January, after initial rollout elsewhere. The official Star Wars Weibo account posted a Chinese-subtitled trailer today with the release information and also said previews will begin from 7PM on December 18 in China, the same day that a handful of major international markets start releasing in earnest.
The timing this year is interesting (and ultimately dictated by the Chinese authorities). It gives Skywalker a coveted day-and-date release while at the same time putting the epic’s final episode in the path of a rush of local titles, leaving it potentially little breathing room. But, as we’ve seen, China is not key to this franchise.
The recent Star Wars movies (save Solo) have made over $1B worldwide (over $2B in the case of The Force Awakens), but have had diminishing returns in the Middle Kingdom. At historical rates, TFA did $124M, Rogue One came in at $69.5M and The Last Jedi made just $42.6M there (Solo grossed $16.5M off a late-May day-and-date release).
Disney has done its level best to increase awareness of (and fondness for) the franchise in China, but unlike on a lot of the rest of this planet, the now 42-year old space odyssey simply doesn’t have the hook there of nostalgia for the characters and mythology. To help move the needle, Disney in October teamed with Tencent-owned China Literature to produce the first original Chinese Star Wars story for the latter’s online reading platform. The two companies will also distribute 40 Star Wars novels translated into Chinese for the first time.
Skywalker joins December 20 local movies like Ip Man 4: The Finale (which is expected to underwhelm), Feng Xiaogang’s Only Cloud Knows and crime drama Sheep Without A Shepherd (based on the 2015 Indian pic Drishyam). Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level will have opened early in China, on December 6, followed by Universal/Focus’ Downton Abbey on December 13.
The previous Jumanji film grossed $78M in China after going out on January 12, 2017. As it did elsewhere, the movie acted as counterprogramming to Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was released in the Middle Kingdom on January 5 that year.
Domestically, the JJ Abrams-directed Rise Of Skywalker is looking at a potential $205M+ opening, per recent tracking.