Black Widow May Be Marvel’s First Falter at the China Box-Office or the Hero It Needs

With the COVID-19 Coronavirus Having Closed Nearly All 70,000 Cinemas Across China for Over One Month, And Regulations Set in Place For When They Re-Open; for Half the Each Screen to be Half-Empty for Safety of Potential Spreading the Deadly Virus. This Could Impact the May 1st Releases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Widow in China.

By Ryan Carroll, Managing Editor

March, 2019.

In China ticket sales at the China Box-Office during the period from January 24th, the beginning of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival, to February 23rd was $4.2MMUSD compared to $1.76BnUSD over the same time-frame in 2019. According to consulting group Artisan Gateway via The Hollywood Reporter. This loss does not include; concession stand sales, movie merchandise (sold at some movie theaters), or purchases made on ticketing apps (over 90% of all tickets are bought over mobile devices in China).

Life is slowly getting back to normal in China, mostly in areas that are farther away from the Greater Wuhan area, but crowded confide spaces such as movie theaters are not areas that have been publicly reopen – though from $4.2MM in ticket sales there has to be some cinemas still in operation. Which would be assumed are in 3rd, 4th, 5th tiered cities that had no impact from the COVID-19 coronavirus, if this author were to guess.

The weather is slowly warming in the northern hemisphere and hopefully that will be a good sign for the fight against the outbreak, though no one is sure about this. Either way, March is looking to be much like February, and April is an unknown for the China Box-Office, so with a May 1st release for Marvel’s Black Widow it really is only a guess of the impact that this outbreak may have on the most popular franchise ever in China.

UPDATE: WeChat media account youhaoxifilm stated that industry insiders were told by authorities that cinemas would remain closed until May 1st.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe to-date has made $2.8BnUSD at the China Box-Office, and we did a box-office analysis for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings propelling the MCU at the China Box-Office between $3.36Bn to $3.8Bn when all is said and done. But this would take into consideration of Black Widow and The Eternals playing like recent MCU movies at the China Box-Office.

We had placed Black Widow between $115MM (the average over-all take of MCU films in China) to $150MM (which is becoming more of the average, and before the coronavirus outbreak I would have leaned more towards this number). Followed by The Eternals $150MM to $200MM as it is directed by Chloe Zhao, a Chinese citizen who is born and raised in Beijing but educated in the West, and features an ensemble cast. Two of which are from Game of Thrones an incredibly popular show in China.

But, if movie theaters are following the issued guidelines to the movie theaters on seating arrangements, on May 1st and Black Widow is released:

That every other seat and every other row shall remain empty, patrons will be required to keep their face masks on for the duration of the movie, and after every screening the entire screening room will be disinfected.

Future guideline for movie theater safety as COVID-19 restriction begin to be lifted.

We may be looking at half of the box-office take of even the lower end of the projected $115MM in China, which would be $57.5MMUSD.

Or, we may be looking at the China Box-Office is fully reopened and the China Film Bureau put into effect an extended Blackout Period of foreign films / Hollywood films being released in China. So that, all of the previous six (Lost in Russia was released across ByteDance’s platforms and will not get a theatrical release), along with all the other films that were unable to be released, to make up for lost revenue.

If this is the case, films like Black Widow, and others will suffer from piracy.

If by May 1st the China Box-Office is in full swing and the restrictions on seating are no longer in effect, both are doubtful and this author would be skeptical of that happening by that time period – at least across the entire country. And, there is no blackout period in effect, also unlikely, then Marvel’s Black Widow may benefit in Chinese movie goers wishing to go out to see one of their favor franchises in droves, just to get out and about!

But, this is pure speculation.

UPDATE: With a new trailer confirming the North American release still confirmed for May 1st for Black Widow, and some operation of Shanghai Disneyland tentatively resuming on March 9th. The Shanghai Disney Hotel, Disneytown, and Wishing Star Park will have limited operations, but the park itself will remain closed; Disney Shanghai may be betting on Black Widow getting a release.

This analysis believes that Black Widow may not be released at the China Box-Office at all due to a blackout period, to allow local films to recoup losses for the past two months and to protect the films which have not been able to be released so-far.

When Black Widow is released people should expect that it may not make as much money in China as the other previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have, but this is not due to it being a female superhero movie – as in China they are Box-Office Gold. It is because of extraneous circumstances beyond Kevin Feige’s and Disney Shanghai’s control.

Stay Tuned China Watchers!

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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.