June 29, 2017
How 'Star Wars' Will Conquer China: Missing Link Of Disney Strategy Unveiled

Star Wars is currently the biggest box office success in North America, what with the performance of The Force Awakens, Box Office Mojo will attest. The latest Star Wars salvo could have trumped the Avatar record worldwide. Sadly, the motion picture fell short of that accomplishment, as The Numbers show. This epic failure has some industry observers considering China as the Star Wars Achilles' heel, or major weakness.

The theory is that had the Chinese movie-going public fully cooperated, Star Wars could have said, "In your face, James Cameron." Instead, it gave the Avatar creator the huge thumbs up while giving The Force a big thumbs down. China just doesn't get Star Wars? That is not entirely true. The fact is, something went awfully wrong with how Disney approached the Chinese market in advertising Episode VII, and now it can be told.

"Disney mounted a huge marketing campaign in China," reports the Guardian. "Flying in an army of 500 storm troopers to line up on the Great Wall of China in October. High-profile local pop stars, including Lu Han of Exo, have been hired to introduce trailers and record promotional songs."

The Guardian continues, "However, it appears fears that Star Wars simply does not have the requisite cultural cachet in China may have proven well-founded. In 1977, when the original space opera trilogy ushered in the modern blockbuster era, there were few cinemas in the country. The much-maligned prequels, whose style Abrams has deliberately avoided on 'The Force Awakens', are better known locally."

To further put things in proper perspective, China is poised to become the biggest box office in the world by 2017, according to Bloomberg Business. This will be easy to understand if the Chinese population is taken into account: 1.357 billion as of 2013! Just imagine how much of that population comprise of young moviegoers, and it becomes easier to imagine just how much is at stake for Star Wars in particular and Hollywood in general.

Apparently, Disney has missed the big picture, based on an IGN and China Film Insider report that echoes the observation of the Guardian.

"Perhaps what should be most disconcerting to Disney are reports that younger moviegoers in third- and fourth-tier cities, the demographic fueling China's booming box office and the target of Disney's marketing bonanza—the foundation for its future success in the country—were confused by the plot and even heard snoring during screenings."

Last January 6, a spokesman for Disney, when asked about the company's strategy for Star Wars in China, declined to comment on the Bloomberg Business report. Still, the report would proceed to discern the entertainment empire's future plans for one of its star assets, quoting Jonathan Papish, a BoxOffice.com analyst.

Disney is "playing the long game and trying to create awareness for the sequels and spin-offs down the line...'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' will feature Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, elements that could attract Chinese audiences."

For its part, Fortune blames the China debacle of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on "Disney's reported decision to go relatively soft on marketing spending for the film. After all, the new Star Wars already has so much hype, why should the company have to bend over backwards to attract moviegoers?"

To date, this is all that is known about Disney's secret plans, ones that might take a Jedi master to unravel fully. In the meantime, expect the Inquisitr to watch closely and be the first to report how these plans unfold. The fact remains that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion in 2012, and it will make four more Star Wars pictures.

What is known right now is akin to the information that BB-8 has stored on its USB drive about the GPS location of Luke Skywalker. Perhaps it will take an R2-D2 to complete the total picture. Until everything is revealed, the public only has the tip of the iceberg. Or maybe, that is all there is to it, as far as Disney's promotional orchestrations are concerned.

Avatar, Furious 7, Transformers, and Jurassic World all have done splendidly well in China box-office-wise. Maybe Disney can pick up a lesson or two from these successes. As it is right now with the Star Wars franchise, the company seems to be using water guns instead of light sabers in the battle to market future Star Wars episodes to the Earth's most populous nation.

[Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images]