After three-and-half years of shutting out Marvel films from theaters, China has finally lifted what The Guardian calls a “de facto ban” on the superhero film studio. Release dates have been set for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania.
The two MCU films are heading to China in February, in what will likely be a box-office booster for Disney. The last time a Marvel film played in China was 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, but the country’s grasp on the MCU film’s box office earnings comes through with Avengers: Endgame. Breaking nearly every box-office record known to mankind, the superhero blockbuster went on to gross $2.798 billion worldwide—thanks in part to China’s box-office earnings of $629.1 million, as reported by Forbes.
While Marvel had been doing pretty well with the country up through 2019, every year since has placed the studio against China’s strict censorship regulations. (It’s also worth noting that during that time period, China had stricter Covid restrictions for longer than the U.S. did, with theaters often closing on short notice, even for domestic films.) From Black Widow to Thor: Love & Thunder, no recent MCU film has made it past the regulations of the China Film Administration, which determines what is allowed to release in the world’s second-largest film market.
Although the CFA has never revealed why these Marvel films didn’t make it past the censors, the reasons for their banning can be easily figured out by the country’s own strict censorship laws on criticism of the Chinese government, overt American patriotism, and LGBTQ+ media. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s former barring from China seemed to be the source of a (barely on-screen) romantic relationship between Dora Milaje characters Aneka (Michaela Coel) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba), so it’s likely that scene will be scrubbed before its February release.
If this is a direction toward Marvel and China restoring their former lucrative box-office partnership, we won’t know for sure until there’s a steady release of MCU films ready to tackle their biggest rival at the country’s theater: Avatar’s many upcoming sequels.
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