The Star Wars saga is one of the biggest pop culture brands in the galaxy, but the films don't always find massive success in every corner of the world. In China, box office numbers from recent films have fallen short of the successes in other territories, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story star Donnie Yen recently pointing out that the films are relatively new to the country, making it difficult for audiences to connect with the long-running storyline.
"Yeah, and that's unfortunate," Yen shared with JoBlo in response to the saga's disappointments in China. "Star Wars - Chinese audiences didn't grow up with Star Wars culture so, unfortunately, it didn't work. Marvel is a lot easier to understand. Star Wars, there's a whole universe out there. Marvel, from the costumes, to the music, to the idols, to the stars, it's much easier to close the gap between the film itself and the audience."
While there are clearly fans of the series in all parts of the world, the original trilogy of films wasn't made available in China until the '90s, likely a major reason why it never became a prominent cultural place for the films, as Yen pointed out.
The Star Wars films released by Disney have seen a sharp decline with each film that debuts. The Force Awakens earned $52 million in its opening weekend while Rogue One went on to earn $30 million. The Last Jedi took in $28 million in its opening weekend and, like in many other territories, Solo: A Star Wars Story took in the lowest earnings yet with only $9 million.
Earlier this year, marketing researcher James Li pointed out the difficulties the saga has had in China.
"Because of the complex characters and themes, the prequels, and all of the multi-generational layers that are part of the culture, or cult, of Star Wars, it's been hard for young Chinese filmgoers to get into the franchise," Li shared with The Hollywood Reporter.
Knowing that there are now ten total films in the franchise, enjoying a new film can be difficult for any film fan, with it being exceptionally difficult and seemingly not worth it for cultures that haven't grown up with the saga.
Interestingly, one of the reported reasons for Rogue One's success is specific to Chinese culture.
"For a lot of fans, the story of Rogue One made us think of our own country's revolutionary history," Chen Tao, who runs a Chinese Star Wars fan forum, pointed out. "A lot of characters in it were just like the Communist Party members who sacrificed themselves for the revolution."
The next film in the series, Episode IX, has begun shooting and will land in theaters in December 2019.
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