China has lifted its unofficial ban on Marvel titles, granting release dates to two major superhero tentpoles, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania.”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which was released elsewhere in the world last November, opens in China on Feb. 7. Shortly thereafter, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania” will be released on February 17, the same day the sequel hits the US and UK, with dates revealed via Marvel’s Chinese social media accounts.
The movies will be the first Marvel adventures to open in China since 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” (which grossed $632 million in the territory) and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (which brought in $198 million in the region). . In the past, Marvel films have been extremely popular in China, with “Black Panther” grossing $105 million and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” $121 million in the country.
It’s not just Marvel that’s getting the cold shoulder from Disney. Few Hollywood movies have had access to screens in Chinese cinemas during the pandemic. The Middle Kingdom’s thaw toward Disney films began in late 2022 with James Cameron’s masterpiece “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which received permission from China’s Film Bureau to play in the country. So far, the science-fiction tentpole has grossed around $220 million in the region.
It is not clear why recent titles from Disney and other major studios have been denied release in China. But this is likely saber rattling directed at the US during a period of heightened tension, particularly with the jingoistic political events of the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary and 20th National Congress taking place in 2021 and 2022, respectively.