In China Female Superheroes Are Box-Office Gold

Ant-Man and the Wasp just broke Chinese box-office records in its opening weekend with $68.2MMUSD.

By Ryan Carroll, Editor-at-Large

Sept. 2018.

Over a non-Chinese holiday Monday Ant-Man and the Wasp continued from its winning opening weekend bringing in another $9.2MM. Proving that Marvel’s smallest, post-Avenger, domestic solo MCU outing, is its biggest solo adventure in China.

Note. Technically, Ant-Man and Wasp are two different heroes, but in terms of the MCU they both appeared in the first film and are not two separate superheroes joining forces under one film umbrella, a la Thor and Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok.

It depends on if you are counting in Dollars or Renminbi for Ant-Man and the Wasp being either the fourth or fifth largest superhero movie opening in China. In USD it is behind Spider-Man: Homecoming in RMB it is ahead. This is due to the exchange rate changing since Homecoming‘s release where Spider-Man has a more favorable opening in terms of the Dollar. While Ant-Man / Wasp brought more in in terms of RMB.

In reality Ant-Man and the Wasp outranks Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The question that is on everyone’s mind is, “why did Ant-Man and the Wasp have such a terrific opening?”

Is it due to the Brand that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Is it because in the post-theatrical release of the first Ant-Man has aged well among Chinese streaming viewers?

Is it because of the comedy of the film crossing cultural borders, something that comedies struggle to do. Outside of particular markets for certain comedies. The Germans love Ryan Reynolds’ Van Wilder while the French still love Jerry Lee Lewis, for some reason?

Is it because Mao Zedong was a huge Scarface fan, leading him to be a lifetime admirer of Michelle Pfeiffer. A result that percolated down through the generations after his death???

  • Okay, that last one is obviously not the case! As Scarface was never released in China, and Mao wasn’t around then anyways….

The physical comedy in the Ant-Man movies does most likely translate, and it is probably why the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp focused so much on the physical gags of his shrinking technology.

Ant-Man getting stuck in shrinking-limbo as the size of a child. Having to retrieve something from his daughter’s backpack, at school, is probably funny both here and abroad. While Paul Rudd’s classic riffs are most likely “lost in translation” due to their slang, delivery, and the Americanese of his comedy style.

So, it is not the comedy that led to Box-Office Gold.

Ant-Man and the MCU Brand as a whole, have both aged well. With the MCU as a Brand guarantees a movie theater worthy event. This is a given but it alone, should not have placed Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s debut over the like of Thor: Ragnarok or Doctor Strange.

There are plenty of Cumberbitches in China and the BCC’s release of their Christmas special Sherlock: The Abominable Bride in Chinese cinemas nabbed $6.4MMUSD in its opening weekend and $26.4MM total. When the special was set to stream in China shortly after, like the rest of the world. Shows the box-office power of Benedict Cumberbatch.

So, it is not the Brand or the well-aging of the first Ant-Man that led to Box-Office Gold.

No, it’s none of these.

I would argue that Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s success is not due to Ant-Man himself, but because of Wasp.

Female audiences represents 50% of all; superhero genre film audiences, gamers, comic book readers, Geekdom in general.

Even though the majority of these statistics to back up this data comes from the U.S. and focuses on those in the U.S., or online in general, there has been other research and statistics done that proves it is not just an American thing but apart of Fan Culture worldwide.

Tencent’s Honor of Kings, the world’s largest game with over $2BnUSD in profits (and still counting), of its 200M registered players females represented 54% making the MOBA game’s largest demographic.

Other research shows that be-it games, comic books, or the like, females will pick one that features a female lead or main playable character, over a male one, up-to 70% of the time. Whereas boys are less fickle when it comes to these terms, choosing a male character less-than 40% of the time.

In the top five of superhero movie releases in China, there is not a single DC movie, but Wonder Woman – an IP not as known in China as say Batman – had one of the leggiest performance for any superhero flick of all time in China.

  • $38MMUSD weekend debut.
  • $90.5MMUSD over all run.
  • Representing 25% of its total worldwide take at the box-office.
  • Receiving a rare 30 day theatrical extension by Beijing Regulators.

Wonder Woman‘s success in China may be overlooked, in the fact that it made less than all post-Avengers releases in China, or at least post-Ultron. Where nearly every MCU release makes $100-115MMUSD in their final runs.

All the statistics and anomalies at the China box-office in regards to superhero films point to one thing: the presence of female superheroes in the film’s lead is a boon to healthy returns in superhero flicks not featuring ensemble team-ups or well established characters, pre-film.

Earlier this year at Cannes China’s oldest film studio Huayi Bros. dished out a cool $20MM for the female ensemble spy flick 355 from Jessica Chastain and company, that features the (potentially blacklisted star for tax fraud) Fan Bingbing. One of the highest paid celebrities in the world.

I am sure that pundits will be arguing over, why Ant-Man and the Wasp debuted so good (second weekend drop-off is still unclear), but I will assume that many will overlook the basic fact that – Female Superheroes Are China Box-Office Gold.

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About the Author
Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.