With Disney getting set to roll out their latest Star Wars spin-off Solo in theaters next month, the Chinese release date has finally been set. Disney will debut Solo: A Star Wars Story in the Middle Kingdom on May 25, the same day it will be released in North America, according to a new report. Several sources in Beijing with knowledge of Solo's distribution plans stated the Chinese release will be on May 25, although a Disney spokesperson in Shanghai said the studio has not yet officially confirmed that date.
The day-and-date release marks the first time since Disney took over the franchise that a Star Wars movie will open on the same date in both the U.S. and China. The first three movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Last Jedi all debuted in the U.S. in mid-December, with the Chinese debuts happening in early January. It's possible this day-and-date release in China could have been implemented to offset the surprisingly sagging grosses of the Star Wars movies in China.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned a healthy $124.1 million in China, 42.2% of which came from its $52.1 million opening weekend, but Star Wars' hold on the Middle Kingdom has been slipping each subsequent year. The 2016 spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story only earned $69.4 million in China ($30.4 million debut), even though the movie prominently featured two major Chinese movie stars, Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. Last year's Star Wars: The Last Jedi slipped even more, taking in just $42.5 million ($28.1 million opening weekend). It was considered an outright bomb in the country, and disappeared from screens quickly after its initial opening weekend. Some in the country even went as far as to say the cast was too 'unattractive' for Chinese standards. Given how strong the Chinese box office market usually is, the Star Wars franchise's slide is quite unexpected. But the original trilogy never played in China, and the Chinese market doesn't have the same affinity for the title as fans in the U.S. It is not a beloved property there by any means.
We reported in January that China will release Solo: A Star Wars Story under the new title Ranger Solo, dropping Star Wars from the title completely. Whether or not this strategy will work in China remains to be seen, especially when paired with this day-and-date release. Solo: A Star Wars story is already quite controversial, after LucasFilm unceremoniously fired directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, four months into the production, replacing them with Ron Howard. There have been reports that Howard essentially reshot the entire movie, since there were reportedly just four weeks left of production. While many expected Disney to ultimately shift the May 25 release date to mid-December, like the first three Star Wars movies under Disney, the studio held their ground and kept its Memorial Day weekend release date intact, which also marks the 41st anniversary of the film that started it all, Star Wars: A New Hope.
A new report that surfaced yesterday claimed that Solo: A Star Wars Story tickets won't go on sale until May 4, which has become known as Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you), so it's not surprising that tickets will go on sale then. Solo: A Star Wars Story will have the Memorial Day weekend to itself, with no other movies opening in wide release, but it will arrive just a week after the highly-anticipated superhero sequel Deadpool 2, and roughly a month after the first major blockbuster of the summer movie season, Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War, arriving April 27. You can head over to The Hollywood Reporter for more on their report on Solo: A Star Wars Story opening in China next month.