“Spider-Man: No Way Home” earned $1 billion without a release in China

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” earned $1 billion without a release in China
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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Spider-Man: No Way Home surpassed $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales over the weekend, the first movie to do so since the coronavirus pandemic. The sequel to the 2019 film Spider-Man: Far From Home, which was released by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures exclusively in theaters, brought in $1.05 billion globally over just 12 days, and did so without the world’s biggest movie market: China.

Before their Chinese release, all foreign films must be approved by the China Film Administration and are subject to censorship. Spider-Man: No Way Home hasn’t yet received the sign-off from Communist party officials, but it could still make its debut in Chinese theaters sometime next year. Previous Spider-Man movies have done well with Chinese audiences; Far From Home brought in $199 million when it was released in the country two years ago.

No Way Home is one of just a handful of movies to earn over $1 billion globally without being released in China.

“Spider-Man” joins an elite club

Just 49 US movies have earned over $1 billion at the box office, according to data from Box Office Mojo, with Avatar holding the title of highest-grossing film, bringing in nearly $3 billion worldwide. No Way Home is the third-fastest film to surpass $1 billion, tied with Star Wars: A Force Awakens.

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Only four other movies have hit the $1 billion mark without being released in China. The 2006 film Pirates of the CaribbeanDead Man’s Chest, for example, broke box office records in the US but was banned by Communist party officials who objected to its portrayal of human cannibalism. The Dark Knight earned just over $1 billion worldwide but was never submitted for consideration to Chinese government officials. Warner Brothers officials cited concerns over “prerelease conditions” and “cultural sensitivities” when explaining their decision not to offer it to China back in 2008.

More recently it’s become harder for production companies to resist the pull of the Chinese film market, whose box office sales surpassed North America’s for the first time in 2020 and are on pace to continue that streak in 2021. While US film companies often make concessions to China by censoring their films to access the market, Marvel movies have struggled to earn approval from party officials as of late. The Eternals, for example, has not been released in the country, likely because comments made by Chinese director Chloe Zhao nearly a decade ago were deemed offensive by nationalist critics. The filmmaker first encountered backlash for those remarks in March, when Beijing censored marketing for her film Nomadland after it won the Oscar for best picture. If No Way Home does receive the go-ahead from Chinese government officials, it will be the first movie in the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe series to do so.