Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hasn't even been in theaters for a month, but if the movie was pulled from theaters right this second and didn't make another dime, it would still be considered a success. Fortunately for Disney and Lucasfilm, the movie still has a long way to go and is about to open in China, the world's second-biggest market for movies. However, the Chinese box office could be taking a big hit due to factors that are beyond the control of anyone in the movie industry. And it's being referred to as an 'apocalyptic smog'.
Chinese officials recently issued a "red alert" in two-dozen cities, which is the highest rating for hazardous air that the country has. It is believed that this particular warning will keep many moviegoers indoors this weekend, which could seriously hurt Star Wars: Rogue One's take this weekend. The Hollywood Reporter is noting that the Chinese box office took a dip over New Year's weekend when compared to the prior year, falling nearly $30 million. A Beijing-based Hollywood producer, who wished not to be named, had this to say to THR about the pollution and how it well affect the box office for Star Wars: Rogue One this weekend.
"Some people who would have checked out Rogue One are going to stay home with their air purifiers this weekend - there's no question. How many is harder to say. Sadly, many of us who have lived in Beijing a long time are just used to this."
The report also noted that the slip at the Chinese box office started in the spring, but analysts believe this "red alert" is making things much worse than they otherwise would be. In recent years, China has become incredibly important to movie studios, since they represent such a large chunk of the box office take. Just last year, Warcraft flopped domestically but wound up being a huge hit in China. The movie wound up making $433 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing video game movie ever. Only $47 million of that total came from the U.S., but a staggering $220 million came from China. So with that in mind, Disney and Lucasfilm were likely looking forward to better conditions heading into Rogue One's opening weekend in the massive foreign market.
Still, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be a hit for Lucasfilm, apocalyptic levels of smog be damned. As of this writing, the movie has made $838 million worldwide and will easily cross the $1 billion mark before finishing its run at the box office. When compared to the take of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which made $2.06 billion worldwide ($936 million domestically), that may seem a bit unimpressive, but it is still a big success. Disney never expected Rogue One to do what Star Wars: The Force Awakens did, and it will be hard for any Star Wars movie to ever match the anticipation that was felt heading into that movie at the end of 2015.
In cities like Beijing and Tianjin, which are located in Northern China and are also places where Star Wars: Rogue One was expected to do the most business, the box office has taken a 34 percent dip over the last year. So that will be significant for Disney and Lucasfilm come this weekend. Still, perhaps the power of Star Wars will bring people out, despite the pollution concern.