LOS ANGELES — There is no generational nostalgia for the characters. The January release date allowed piracy to flourish online, cutting into ticket sales. Hollywood imports are losing their luster as local studios become more skilled at making blockbuster-style movies.
Whatever the reason, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Disney) collapsed in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, arriving this weekend to estimated ticket sales over three days of $28.7 million. To compare, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” took in $53 million over its first two days in Chinese cinemas in 2016. Last year, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” managed $31 million over its first three days.
Disney promoted “The Last Jedi” extensively in China, staging a red carpet premiere at the Shanghai Disney Resort, replete with a squadron of Stormtroopers, and securing marketing partnerships with companies like Pepsi, Alibaba, Samsung and Youku. But the efforts fell flat: “The Last Jedi” was no match for a holdover local comedy, “The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes,” which took in an estimated $86.7 million.
Dave Hollis, Disney’s president of distribution, acknowledged on Sunday that the China results were softer than the studio had hoped for. Disney declined to comment further.
“The Last Jedi,” of course, has been a smash hit almost everywhere else. After four weeks of release, the movie has collected $1.21 billion worldwide, with North American audiences contributing $572.5 million.
Hollywood will try again in China next weekend, when “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony) is scheduled for release. There is reason for Sony to be optimistic. “Jumanji,” a visual-effects-driven comedy led by Dwayne Johnson, has already delivered better-than-expected results elsewhere in the world, including in North America, where it ranked No. 1 over the weekend, with estimated ticket sales of $36 million.
Since its arrival in North America on Dec. 20, “Jumanji” has collected $244.4 million, for a worldwide total of about $500 million.
Second place for the weekend in the United States and Canada went to the horror sequel “Insidious: The Last Key” (Universal), which arrived to an estimated $29.3 million in ticket sales — or almost 30 percent more than for its series predecessor, “Insidious: Chapter 3,” managed over its first three days in 2015.
It is unusual for the fourth film in a series to pick up steam. The strong results for “The Last Key,” which is rated PG-13, can be attributed in part to a well-chosen release date. The first weekend in January has historically been kind to horror movies, as teenagers flee their families after the holidays. “The Last Key” also comes from Blumhouse, which has become a brand, the result of successes like “Get Out,” “Happy Death Day,” “Ouija” and “Split.”
Blumhouse has made its name by shaking up horror formulas. “The Last Key,” for instance, is aimed at teenage girls. But it stars a septuagenarian actress, Lin Shaye, who has never before had the lead role in a film.
Also of note at the box office: Aaron Sorkin’s well-reviewed “Molly’s Game” (STXfilms), starring Jessica Chastain as a woman who runs high-stakes underground poker games, took in a solid $7 million in semi-wide release (1,608 theaters), for a new domestic total of $14.2 million.