Disney, Marvel Hope ‘Captain America’ Will Stretch China Hot Streak

  • Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Disney/Marvel superhero franchises have hit big
  • Direct translation of Captain America title stuck despite calls against Western influence
  • CFI Score 9/10—Disney can rest assured it will have its third straight RMB 1 billion film of the year
Disney lights up Shanghai’s iconic skyline ahead of Captain America: Civil War release (Disney’s WeChat)

Disney lights up Shanghai’s iconic skyline ahead of Captain America: Civil War release (Disney’s WeChat)

Disney has been on a roll at the Chinese box office in 2016; its three releases thus far — Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Zootopia, and The Jungle Book — all have earned more than $100 million in China and account for three of the four highest-grossing imported films of the year.

Captain America: Civil War looks to continue Disney and Marvel’s hot streak in the territory when it invades Chinese theaters tomorrow Friday, May 6.

Below, CFI takes a look at the sequel’s box office potential.

Captain America: Civil War (美国队长3)
China Distribution: China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
U.S. Distribution: Walt Disney Studios

CFI Score: 9/10

In terms of franchise success and brand awareness, Disney’s Marvel blows the competition out of the water. Disney has done a stellar job of introducing Chinese audiences to its Marvel superheroes — each film in their universe has received a Chinese release, dating back to Iron Man in 2008 — and they’ve seen explosive growth in the Captain America and Iron Man standalone series as well as The Avengers ensemble films. (See table below)

Marvel’s China Box Office Performance

[table id=10 /]

Given that Civil War is essentially an Avengers 2.5 with Robert Downey, Jr.’s playboy Tony Stark squaring off against Chris Evans’ idealistic Steve Rogers and Chinese fan favorite Sebastian Stan, we expect audiences to be much kinder to this film than they were to the previous superhero showdown.

On the marketing front, Disney’s Civil War attack was relatively muted on the Mainland, as the studio perhaps moved to save up to refuel the Star Wars engine ahead of Rogue One’s release in December and instead banking on brand awareness and early positive word of mouth to incite its existing fan base.

Evans and Stan both traveled to Beijing for Civil War’s premiere, but Downey, Jr., surprisingly, stayed home. It may have been more prudent for Disney to market this as an Avengers reunion instead of a standalone piece since The Winter Soldier earned just half of Age of Ultron.

In fact, statistical analysis from the WeChat group FanInk Weekly (凡影) shows Civil War’s level of awareness and “heat index” far below Ultron’s just one day before release.

Early estimates for Thursday’s midnight screenings came in at RMB 17 million ($2.6 million), good enough for 4th all-time, but also lagging behind Ultron’s RMB 21 million.

Interestingly, Disney has chosen to stick with a direct translation of Captain America for its title in Mandarin despite recent calls from China against Western indoctrination on its screens.  The title has been changed to the less provocative First Avenger moniker in Russia and South Korea to avoid enduring resentment over American military occupation, but also presumably to tie the film to The Avengers.

We’ll have a clearer picture of Civil War’s ultimate box office performance and if it can trump Ulton’s run after the weekend, but Disney can rest assured it will have its third straight RMB 1 billion film of the year.