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Will “Spider-Man: No Way Home” Swing into Chinese Theaters?

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The pandemic era has marked some huge box-office wins for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Look no further than Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first Marvel film to feature an Asian lead and the year’s highest-grossing domestic box office film in the US to date. 

But despite the overwhelming success of Hollywood’s domestic releases this year, 2021 has yet to see the debut of a single Marvel film for Chinese audiences. 

The wait, however, could soon be over, with the highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home rumored to see a China debut by year’s end.

BaiduBaiKe, China’s answer to Wikipedia, lists the film’s release date as “to be determined.” While on the Chinese review-aggregation website Douban, December 2021 is given as the estimated release time. 

“A Hollywood tentpole will be released on the [Chinese] mainland simultaneously with — or around two weeks earlier or later than — its North American opening. So, I guess No Way Home might open in later December,” Xu Fan, a state media film critic, told RADII when asked about a hypothetical release date.

If the speculation is true, No Way Home would be the first Phase Four MCU film released in China. 

Both Eternals, directed by Chinese-born Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao, and Shang-Chi were notably absent from China’s theaters this year. In each case, past comments about China made by Zhao and Shang-Chi star Simu Liu may have contributed to the films’ inability to pass the scrutiny of Chinese media regulators. 

According to Variety, the first sliver of hope for the China’s Marvel superfans came in the form of a Chinese poster for the third installment of Spider-Man featuring Tom Holland as Peter Parker. 

The latest iteration of the iconic superhero series is set for release in North America on December 17, but no specific release date for the Chinese mainland has been made public. 

While concrete details about the release are still lacking, one other distinguishing feature of No Way Home is that, unlike Marvel’s other 2021 releases, it is a production of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group via Columbia Pictures. Sony has historically maintained a positive relationship with the Chinese government, and there is a preexisting deal between major Chinese theaters and Sony that could bode well for a possible release, according to CBR.com.

On Weibo, a microblogging platform in China, the hashtag ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home new trailer’ (#蜘蛛侠英雄无归新预告#) has gained more than 200 million views. Moreover, netizens are particularly interested in one scene featured in the trailer, where Zendaya takes a dangerous-looking tumble.

The related hashtag ‘Spider-Man’s girlfriend fell again’ (#蜘蛛侠女友又掉下去了#) has been viewed more than 80 million times. Netizens also shared that the scene reminded them of the sad passing of another of Spider-Man’s girlfriends, Gwen Stacey.

“The scene of MJ falling reminded me of the scene when Gwen Stacey fell,” wrote one Weibo user. Another netizen posted, “I [Spider-Man] saved the whole city but couldn’t save you [Gwen Stacey]. Please hold on tight [MJ]. I’m really looking forward to the film!”

Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home tells the story of an unmasked Peter Parker, who struggles to balance everyday life with the fame and notoriety brought on by a secret identity made public. 

The first two Spidey films starring Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home grossed a respective 116 million USD and 199 million USD in China alone, making it by far the most profitable overseas market for the two movies. 

That number pales compared to Marvel’s most profitable Chinese release, Avengers: Endgame, which earned a staggering 629.1 million USD at the Chinese box office in 2019. 

If that momentum continues, Forbes argues that the Jon Watts-directed film will likely be one of the highest-grossing blockbusters to come out of Hollywood in the past two years. 

Based on Chinese fans’ yearning for heavy visual effects after a shortage of appealing blockbusters, I think [No Way Home] may stir fans’ interest in returning to cinemas,” says Xu.

With China surpassing the United States as the world’s biggest box office last year, such an accomplishment would be near-impossible without a theatrical release in the most populous nation on Earth. 

All images via IMDb

Jesse Pottinger
    Jesse is a Vancouver-based journalist who spent four back-to-back summers living in Guangzhou and working with That’s magazines. He has spent considerable time traveling around China over the past half-decade and has something of a passion for dumplings. You can follow Jesse’s adventures on Instagram at @messy_jesse.
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