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  • Even if you've never seen a "Star Wars" film, you know the phrase

  • George Lucas's space opera is a cornerstone of the modern film

  • industry and a cultural phenomenon around the globe.

  • Struggle, if you would pardon my stealing of film line

  • In the U.S., the ten films in the "Star Wars" franchise have grossed more than $4.5

  • billion since the first film was released in 1977.

  • Outside the U.S., it's garnered more than 4.6 billion.

  • But there's one place that "Star Wars" hasn't quite had the same success, China.

  • The original "Star Wars" trilogy wasn't shown in China.

  • So while a lot of people around the world were having their formative

  • cinematic experience within that "Star Wars" universe.

  • In China, that just wasn't happening.

  • "Star Wars" was an instant sensation with American audiences.

  • It changed not only how people viewed movies, but how they were made.

  • The commercial success of "Star Wars" created a boom in state of the art

  • special effects in the late 1970s, and along with the movie, "Jaws,"

  • started the tradition of summer blockbuster films.

  • It also created the model for production companies to create trilogies

  • and multi-film series and show that merchandising rights were just as

  • lucrative as the film itself.

  • On playgrounds, children pretended to use the force, honed their light

  • saber skills with broom handles and sticks and recreated Luke

  • Skywalker's is Death Star run in makeshift cardboard box x-wings.

  • That first installment known at the time has just "Star Wars" hauled

  • in $322 million, a massive score for 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm.

  • This made it far and away, the highest grossing film in 1977,

  • outpacing "Smokey and the Bandit "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

  • "Star Wars" was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took home six

  • 1977 when the first "Star Wars" was released, China was still at the

  • tail end of the Cultural Revolution.

  • So they were watching model operas and propagandistic films about

  • socialism and workers and soldiers.

  • And so it was a very, very different universe.

  • If you want to talk about a galaxy far, far away.

  • China's strict ban on Western cultural influences made it so the only

  • film shown in the country where government produced.

  • At least if we go back to 1977, there was no context for science fiction.

  • And of course, American films were not distributed in China during that time.

  • So there was just no way for it to get a foothold.

  • Outside of China, "Star Wars" flourished.

  • Its success allowed Lucas to continue the story of idealistic farm boy

  • Luke Skywalker, scoundrel Han Solo and rebel leader Leah Organa.

  • "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" arrived in theaters in 1980

  • The second installment earned $222 million domestically.

  • Once again, the runaway success of the Empire Strikes Back allowed Lucas to produce a third film.

  • "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" hit theaters in 1983 and hauled in a whopping $263 million in the U.S.

  • When the original star was released in 1977, it was a kind of an

  • anomaly. Nobody had ever seen a film like that. It was kind of inventing this whole new universe.

  • More than two decades passed before Lucas returned to the Skywalker saga.

  • In the decades between "Return of the Jedi" and Lucas's new trilogy,

  • China had relaxed its ban on Western films and launched a quota

  • system in 1994 to allow a certain number of foreign films to get a wide release in the country.

  • At first, only 10 films were allowed per year.

  • However, over the last two decades, that has expanded to more than 30

  • films per year, with the provision that at least 14 of those films must either be 3-D or IMAX compatible.

  • There was this incredible appetite in China for consuming American

  • products, Hollywood products, Coca-Cola, music, Michael Jackson.

  • All of this stuff started coming in.

  • The first American film released theatrically in China was 1994's "The Fugitive", starring Harrison Ford.

  • Five years later, "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" became the

  • first "Star Wars" film to get a theatrical release in China.

  • In the U.S., crowds of moviegoers flocked to theaters.

  • The children that had grown up on "Star Wars" eagerly awaited Lucas's new films, bringing their own children in tow.

  • The original kenner toy's they had once coveted had long been handed down to the next generation.

  • While fans in North America shelled out $431 million for the first prequel film,

  • without a connection to the original "Star Wars" saga, ticket sales in China were extremely anemic.

  • Meanwhile, in the U.S., the films hauled in more than $1.1 billion.

  • The "Star Wars" prequels also likely suffered because of China's massive bootleg market.

  • You also have the incredibly robust bootleg market. And so bootleg DVD in the 1990s,

  • that's where a lot of people are watching their Hollywood films.

  • Censorship laws in the country drove up the demand for film

  • contraband, leading to a rampant industry of pirated films and television shows.

  • As China has loosened its grip on what media is allowed into the

  • country and strengthened its crackdown on piracy, its film industry has flourished.

  • Having seen the disconnect between Chinese audiences and the "Star Wars" brand.

  • Disney decided to take a different tactic when it bought Lucasfilm for

  • $4.05 billion in cash and stock in 2012.

  • The company planned to pick up where Lucas left off and bring

  • the final three films in the Skywalker saga to the big screen.

  • Three years later in 2015, "Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens" arrived to theaters.

  • "Star Wars" finally had a hit in China

  • "The Force Awakens" earned $122.8 million dollars in China, thanks in part to Disney's expert marketing

  • tactics and a shift in Chinese movie-going culture.

  • Still, it's box office haul wasn't as high as some analysts had hoped.

  • When you compare that to a film like "Furious 7" or some of the, you

  • know, the "Transformers" films, that's a very small number.

  • And I think there was this anticipation that China would add so much

  • money to the bottom line that it could have propelled "The Force Awakens" to be the biggest worldwide reforming film of all time.

  • That didn't happen because China just didn't generate the kind of box

  • office that a lot of people might have thought, not knowing the history of the "Star Wars" films in that country.

  • "Furious 7" made $390 million in China, a whopping 25% of its total box office haul.

  • "Transformers: Age of Extinction" took in $320 million from China, 28% of its global gross.

  • For comparison, "The Force Awakens" made less than 6% of its total global ticket sales from China.

  • Globally, the film made more than $2.06 billion.

  • Had "The Force Awakens" fared better in China, it could have surpassed "Titanic" to become the second highest

  • grossing film of all-time and made a run for the top spot currently held by "Avatar."

  • While "The Force Awakens" doesn't have the same ticket sales comparisons as other Hollywood flicks in China,

  • it still had the best performance of any "Star Wars" film previously.

  • This was due in part to Disney's massive marketing campaign in China

  • ahead of the release of the seventh film the "Star Wars saga," which

  • included placing 500 storm troopers on the Great Wall.

  • The company also made all six previous films available online on

  • Chinese streaming service Tencent and released a music video

  • featuring Chinese pop star Lu Han, often called the Justin Bieber of China.

  • Disney even cast Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, two of the most popular

  • male actors in China in its spinoff movie "Rogue one: A Star Wars Story."

  • Not to mention movie theater chains in China were in the midst of adding new theaters with better seating and larger screens.

  • Well, I think here in the U.S. and a lot of maybe European countries, we look at film as this very

  • diverse medium, where you can go and see an intimate love story or an

  • experimental film or a documentary or a popcorn style blockbuster.

  • There are all these types of films that we go to the theater to enjoy and experience.

  • What the quota system, one thing that it's changed is that you can

  • only get 10 films a year in China, or 25 to 34 films that, you know, it keeps going up.

  • But if you have a very limited quota of films released into China,

  • you're not going to release your quirky documentary or your intimate love story or your, you know, experimental film.

  • It's going to be your "Avengers 4" or it's going to be "Iron Man 3" or, you know, "Alien."

  • You know, basically the big tentpole blockbuster spectacle films,

  • because that's where they know they're gonna get their return and more bang for their buck.

  • And so what's happened is over the course of the last 15, 20 years,

  • what Chinese audiences, when they go to the multiplex, that's what

  • they see in terms of foreign films. The big explosions, "Fast & Furious," car chases, these types of films.

  • However, the "Star Wars" phenomenon waned with each new film that was released.

  • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" earned $71 million.

  • "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" earned $40 million.

  • And "Solo: A Star Wars Story" earned just $16 million.

  • Meanwhile, those three films grossed $2.3 billion in North America and $2.5 billion internationally.

  • There's still one more film in the Skywalker saga yet to be released.

  • The "Star Wars: Episode 9" is due out in theaters in December.

  • So why is it so important that films like "Star Wars" get a foothold in China?

  • China is becoming an increasingly important part of Hollywood's bottom line.

  • The Chinese film industry is booming and expected to eclipse the U.S. as the largest film market in the world.

  • In February, ticket sales in the U.S. reached $637 million dollars, a 38% decline compared with last year.

  • This was the U.S. film industry's lowest February take since 2006.

  • During the same time frame, sales in China reached $1.66 billion.

  • The U.S. movie slate for February was always going to be hard pressed to

  • beat the monumental box office sales of the same month a year ago.

  • Last year, "Black Panther" helped boost sales to a whopping $1 billion for the month,

  • the best February ever.

  • The growing success of the Chinese film industry is a big reason that production companies and distributors

  • are paying more attention to Asia when it comes to these big Hollywood releases.

  • China is a massive movie market, it's second only to North America in

  • terms of box office and it's catching up fast.

  • It's also why the end of the Skywalker saga bodes so well for Disney in China.

  • Disney has hired, "Game of Thrones" writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to pen a standalone "Star Wars" trilogy.

  • Disney has also tapped "The Last Jedi" director, Rian Johnson, to write a separate "Star Wars" trilogy.

  • Without being tied to the Star Wars canon of the original films from the 70s, these new films have a chance of success in China.

  • And so I think the Chinese audiences are kind of building up an appreciation for this genre and so there's definitely

  • that opportunity for them to succeed.

  • But I think they just have to do it on their own merits.

  • They can't count on the brand name per-say as as much as American audiences.

Even if you've never seen a "Star Wars" film, you know the phrase

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星球大戰》為何在中國失敗? (Why Star Wars Failed In China)

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    day 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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