The relationship between China and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has broken down recently, a prime example of a widening gap between Hollywood and the world's biggest box office market. No Marvel movie since Avengers: Endgame has opened in China, with Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home all skipping a release in the region. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems unlikely to break that streak. There has been much speculation about why China and Marvel are on the outs. A new report sheds some light on China's specific issues with Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Matthew Belloni of Puck.news writes that, according to multiple sources, China had only one problem with No Way Home, but it was a big one. As in, 305 feet tall big (plus shield). China wanted Sony to remove, or reduce, the Statue of Liberty's presence in No Way Home. That's a big ask considering the film's climax is an epic battle between the trio of Spider-Men and the Sinister
"According to multiple sources, when the authorities got back to Sony, they had a request: Delete the Statue of Liberty from the ending of the film. Yes, seriously. As anyone who's seen No Way Home knows, the entire climactic action sequence takes place with a trio of Spider-Men swinging over and around Lady Liberty as they battle the supervillains. Plus, without getting too into MCU plot points, the Statue plays a larger role in the Marvel movies. It was an outrageous ask."
Sony's chairman Tom Rothman's projection at CinemaCon that No Way Home would make $3.3 billion worldwide may have emboldened China's censors. Such a gross would be practically impossible without China's audience. However, with interest in American movies declining in China amid a surge in homegrown blockbuster films, Sony chose not to comply:
"But the Chinese weren't done. Then they asked if the Statue could simply be minimized in the sequence: if Sony could cut a few of the more patriotic shots of Holland standing atop the crown, or dull the lighting so that Lady Liberty's visage wasn't so front-and-center. Sony thought about this request, per my sources, but ultimately passed, knowing that it almost certainly meant forfeiting that potentially massive China payday. Could the studio have made the changes? Maybe, but the move would have caused a media firestorm in the U.S. and elsewhere. Plus, even with the alterations, there was no guarantee that No Way Home would get into the country, and even if it did, U.S. films just aren't doing as well in China as they once did. Pretty easy decision."
Spider-Man: No Way Home has made $1.9 billion at the worldwide box office. It is now available on home media.