‘Spider-man’ caught in Chinese box-office blackout
China, the world’s second largest box office, has Hollywood in a cold sweat after it delayed the release of its summer tentpoles.
Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming has yet to be given a release date as Beijing officials try to limit North America’s access to the Chinese theatrical market.
20th Century Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes and Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, both opening this month, also aren’t likely to see a release date before August. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk isn’t expected to open in China until September, two months after its U.S. premiere.
The Chinese government demands that native movies maintain a 55% market share, which resulted in a summer blackout of U.S. titles in 2016, lifted early when China realized it was limiting overall growth in the sector – but it seems likely another blackout is on the horizon. It is China’s aim to overtake North America as the world’s largest theatrical market; forecasters predict this goal will be achieved by 2020.
What does this mean for Spidey and the other summer blockbusters? In a market still plagued by piracy, a delayed release in the second-biggest territory could be catastrophic for their box-office figures. Audiences are unlikely to wait for the full cinematic experience as illegal copies become available online. For superhero vehicles such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, the loyalty of its fans may offer some protection, but this blackout means a nerve-wracking summer for the others.