Special previews of the long-awaited “Star Wars” film in Beijing this week drew just a handful of fans.
Chen Tao is a rare superfan in a country where Friday’s opening day pre-sales were just 12 million yuan ($1.7 million), Xinhua news agency said, a fraction of the 218 million yuan taken recently on release by a Chinese-made crime drama, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The 35-year-old Shanghai resident only became curious about the space saga by accident after stumbling across a pre-installed “Star Wars” video game on his first computer.
Chen now runs one of China’s biggest online “Star Wars” fan groups, debating lightsaber physics on the online message board Zhihu and managing a Twitter-like Weibo account with 30,000 followers.
He loves the “Star Wars” world for its vast scale and rich detail that fans can piece together through movies, books and games.
“Its world is like a jigsaw-puzzle… which feels very magical to me, and inspires a desire to explore this universe,” he said.
But Chen and his fellow fans are rare in China, where cinemagoers flock instead to see Marvel superheroes and domestic films.
“The Last Jedi” ranked number 47 at the box office in China in 2018, far behind Marvel’s superhero film “Avengers: Infinity War” at number six, according to Box Office Mojo.
Since buying Star Wars studio Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney has stepped up efforts to gain fans in the world’s fastest-growing movie market.
In October, Disney and Tencent-owned e-book company China Literature announced they would be publishing the first-ever “Star Wars” novel written specifically for Chinese audiences featuring “Chinese-style expression.”
“We will introduce interpersonal relations and other concepts from Chinese custom into Star Wars,” a China Literature representative told AFP, without providing further details.