“Thor: Love and Thunder,” the 29th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, earned $ 302 million worldwide in its debut in theaters over the weekend, including $ 143 million in the US.
But China did not contribute to the movie’s successful box-office launch – and it likely never will.
“Love and Thunder” has not been approved by China’s film censors allegedly because of LGBTQ + themes floated throughout the movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
China’s film regulators have a history of censoring certain themes in movies and TV in an effort to push “traditional” values in Chinese culture. Recently, Disney’s Pixar movie “Lightyear” failed to pass Chinese censors over a same-sex kiss. Last year, China’s National Radio and Television Administration told TV broadcasters to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics.”
China was the biggest box office region in the world for 2020 and 2021. While North America is on pace to reclaim its crown this year, China is still a massive theatrical market that boosted Hollywood blockbusters before the pandemic.
Representatives for Marvel Studios and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The movie is the sixth MCU entry, all since the start of the pandemic, to be shut out of the region, where MCU movies have been hits in the past. “Avengers: Endgame” is the highest-grossing Hollywood release there ever. The previous “Thor” movie, “Thor: Ragnarok,” earned $ 112 million.
Online controversies have largely been to blame for the MCU’s China woes. Here’s why each of them were not approved for release there:
- “Black Widow“- Released in May last year, during a typical” blackout “of foreign films in China during the summer movie season
- “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings“- 2017 comments made by star Simu Liu, in which he called China a” third world “country, resurfaced on Chinese social media last year
- “Eternals“- Director Chloé Zhao, who was born in China, faced criticism from Chinese nationalists over a 2013 interview in which she said” there are lies everywhere “in the country
- “Spider-Man: No Way Home“- Chinese film officials wanted the Statue of Liberty removed, which the movie’s distributor, Sony refused to do. (That would have altered the entire climax of the movie)
- “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness“- Faced criticism online for a scene that features a newspaper kiosk with the Epoch Times, which opposes the Chinese government
And with Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Morbius,” which weren’t produced by the Disney-owned Marvel Studios and not part of the MCU, that’s even more Marvel movies that haven’t made it to China.
During the pandemic, China’s box office has largely been bolstered by local productions. The Hollywood movies that have been released there have, for the most part, flopped, due to a number of factors, including piracy, shifting consumer interest, and stricter film regulators. “Jurassic World: Dominion” is an outlier, earning $ 131 million in China, but that’s still far below what its predecessors made there.
The Chinese films “Battle at Lake Changjin” and “Hi, Mom” were the second and third biggest movies of 2021, behind “No Way Home.” They helped China surpass North America as the world’s biggest box office until this year, as pandemic-related lockdowns have hurt theaters.
In its five-year film plan, the China Film Administration made it a goal for Chinese-produced movies to account for at least 55% of China’s box office each year.
Experts on the Chinese movie business have told Insider that China was more likely to crack down on Hollywood releases in the future as it seeks to become a global film power.
Aynne Kokas – a media studies professor at the University of Virginia and the author of the book “Hollywood Made in China” – observed a “widespread tightening” of Chinese media and predicted fewer Hollywood movies would be approved.
Hollywood has had success without China, though, and that could be the new normal. “No Way Home” grossed $ 1.9 billion worldwide and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” grossed over $ 900 million globally.