After a years-long absence, Earth's mightiest heroes are welcome back in China.
China is lifting its apparent ban on Marvel movies with plans for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania to be released in the country in February, Deadline reports. These will mark the first Marvel Cinematic Universe films to be released in China since 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home.
No official reason was ever provided for why Chinese authorities didn't allow Marvel films like Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to be released over the past few years. But The Hollywood Reporter notes it was widely speculated that Eternals director Chloé Zhao's past comments critical of China and LGBTQ+ content in recent Marvel films may have played a part. There were even reports that Sony rebuffed Chinese regulators' demand to edit the Statue of Liberty out of 2021's Spider-Man: No Way Home.
It wasn't confirmed what has changed that led Marvel to be let back in, but The Guardian notes the decision comes after "signs of China's government easing its hardline approaches on the private sector" amid an effort to "restore China's faltering economy." This also comes as Disney's Avatar: The Way of Water has grossed over $200 million and counting in China. So Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told The Los Angeles Times that Avatar's success in China "may have opened the door for Disney to have their Marvel films released there." Indeed, lecturer How Wee Ng told NBC News that allowing Marvel films to play again would "contribute to post-pandemic recovery, which is currently in line with the party-state's agenda."
Regardless of the reason, this is a big win for Disney considering China is a major market for movies, which can add hundreds of millions of dollars to a film's box office haul. During Marvel's absence from the country, none of its movies has hit the $1 billion mark at the global box office with the exception of Spider-Man: No Way Home, though Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness came close with $955 million. So with ticket sales from China back in the mix, Disney could soon start crossing that finish line much more often.