Black Panther: Wakanda Forever–Unlikely to Be Released in China 

Hollywood has less on the line in China than it used to, but the regular banning of major superhero movies is still costing the studios tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue.

 

Hollywood’s big superhero movies of late 2022 — Disney’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Warner’s Dwayne Johnson Black Adam — are expected to be blocked from release in China, as Beijing regulators continue to crack down on U.S. access to the world’s second-largest theatrical market.

There is less on the line for Hollywood in China due to the country’s steady tightening of censorship control and nearly three years of strict Covid-zero policies, but regulators’ consistent snubbing of top-tier superhero titles is still costing the studios tens of millions of lost potential revenue.

Beijing regulators seldom publicly announce or explain their decisions when denying a foreign movie permission to screen in local theaters, forcing studios and local fans alike to wait, speculate and hope.

But several sources say that both Black Panther 2 and Black Adam have little chance of winning approval at this stage.

Black Panther 2‘s denial comes as little surprise given the recent track record of Marvel movies in the Middle Kingdom.

Once Hollywood’s most bankable franchise in the country–Avengers: Endgame earned $629 million there–beginning with Black Widow in 2020, the last half dozen Marvel titles have not earned permission to screen in China.

In the past, Hollywood studios have cut queer characters from their films to appease China’s censors — and reaped millions more in ticket revenue in the process. Before its takeover by Disney, 20th Century Fox shaved all mentions of Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality from Bohemian Rhapsody in order to secure a China outing, and Warner Bros. cut dialogue referring to a gay relationship from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore just this year.

Disney, however, has taken the stance that it doesn’t remove gay content to appease censors in foreign markets. The studio refused to trim a “gay moment” from the live-action Beauty and the Beast in 2017 when Malaysian content regulators objected, and it stood firm on Lightyear in the various markets where the movie was blocked, including Saudi Arabia and China.

Wakanda Forever will probably do fine globally without China, as early tracking suggests a domestic opening of $175 million or more. But D.C.’s Black Adam could have used a box-office boost. The film has earned $321 million globally, but cost almost $200 million to make, before marketing. And previous Johnson action tentpoles, including Hobbs & Shaw (2019), Skyscraper (2018) and Rampage (2018), earned significantly more in China than they did stateside.

The recent dearth of U.S. tentpole product on Chinese screens has arguably hurt local cinema chains the most. As of Monday, total ticket sales in China for 2022 were down 35 percent compared to 2021, according to data from Artisan Gateway.

Neither Disney nor Warner responded to requests for comment.

The leading theory for Black Adam‘s ban is the presence in the film of Pierce Brosnan as the heroic character Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate. Two years ago, Brosnan posted a 19-year-old photo of his family posing with the Dalai Lama, while offering his congratulations to the spiritual leader on his 85th birthday.

The Dalai Lama is viewed by Beijing as a dangerous separatist and entertainment figures ranging from Lady Gaga to Richard Gere and Keanu Reeves have seen their work censored in China over past statements or gestures of support for the Tibetan leader.