‘Alice’ is China-Bound, but Not All Smooth Sailing for Disney in China

  • Through the Looking Glass is Disney’s fourth day-and-date U.S.-China release in 2016
  • Though box office has risen, the DisneyLife set-top box biz with Alibaba was shut this week
  • Big expectations for the Shanghai Disney Resort due to open on June 16

Poster for Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney via Mtime)

Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass will open in China on May 27 simultaneous with its North American debut, the Hollywood studio said on one of its Chinese social media accounts on Wednesday.

Director James Bobin’s live-action sequel to the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s Through the Looking Glass (爱丽丝梦游仙境2) will be the studio’s fourth day-and-date release in China so far this year, following Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and The Jungle Book.

Based on Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, Alice will be shown in China in the 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and China Film Giant Screen (CFGS) formats. The film reunites stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter.

The Jungle Book, also a live action remake, grossed RMB 642.2 million ($98.8 million) in its first 10 days in Chinese theaters.

Despite the studio’s recent box office success, not all in China is smooth sailing for Disney. DisneyLife, a streaming video service offered by the company in cooperation with tech and entertainment giant Alibaba was forced to go offline this week, just five months after its launch.

DisneyLife’s Mickey Mouse-shaped set-top box represented a pillar of the company’s digital push into the Chinese market and contained a vast collection of the company’s movies, animation series, games, e-books, songs, and even travel services.

The sudden suspension of the service follows the introduction of broad new regulation to restrict online publishing, particularly by foreign firms. The DisneyLife ban followed word on Friday that Apple’s iTunes services had been shut down in China.

The sudden clampdown on Disney’s digital operation in China comes just weeks before the Shanghai Disney Resort is set to officially open on June 16. The $5.5 billion theme park occupies nearly 1,000 acres of land in Shanghai, and is expected to a boon to the local economy.

The company now has eight live-action North American release dates for new films through the end of 2019. We’ll have to wait and see how many of those will also clinch Chinese release dates.