Thor: Love and Thunder, the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, grossed $302 million worldwide in its theatrical debut over the weekend, including $143 million in the US.
But China didn’t contribute to the film’s successful theatrical release – and likely never will.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Love and Thunder” was allegedly disallowed by China’s film censors due to LGBTQ+ themes appearing throughout the film.
China’s film regulators have a long history of censoring certain themes in films and television to promote “traditional” values in Chinese culture. Recently, Disney’s Pixar film “Lightyear” failed due to Chinese censorship over a same-sex kiss. Last year, China’s National Radio and Television Administration called on TV stations to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics.”
China was the world’s largest cash register region in 2020 and 2021. While North America is on track to reclaim its crown this year, China is still a huge cinema market that has given a boost to pre-pandemic Hollywood blockbusters.
Representatives from Marvel Studios and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The film is the sixth MCU entry to be banned from the region where MCU films have historically enjoyed success since the pandemic began. Avengers: Endgame is the highest-grossing Hollywood release of all time. The previous Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok, grossed $112 million.
Online controversy was largely to blame for the MCU’s China woes. Here’s why each of them wasn’t approved for publication there:
- “Black widow— Released in May last year, during a typical “blackout” of foreign films in China during the summer film season
- “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings– Comments from star Simu Liu in 2017 calling China a “third world” country resurfaced on Chinese social media last year
- “eternal– Chinese-born director Chloé Zhao was criticized by Chinese nationalists in 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 film’s distributor, Sony, refused. (That would have changed the entire climax of the film)
- “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘ – Was criticized online for a scene showing an Epoch Times newsstand taking a stand against the Chinese government
And with Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius not being produced by Disney-owned Marvel Studios and not part of the MCU, those are even more Marvel films that didn’t make it to China.
During the pandemic, China’s box office has been largely boosted by local productions. Hollywood films released there have largely flopped, due to a number of factors including piracy, changing consumer interest and tightening film regulators. Jurassic World: Dominion is an outlier, grossing $131 million in China, but that’s still far short of what its predecessors made there.
Chinese films Battle at Lake Changjin and Hi, Mom were the second and third-biggest films of 2021, after No Way Home. They helped China surpass North America as the world’s biggest box office by this year due to pandemic-related Lockdowns have hurt cinemas.
In its five-year plan, the China Film Administration has set a goal that films made in China account for at least 55% of China’s box office each year.
China film business experts have told insiders that China is likely to crack down on Hollywood releases in the future as it attempts to become a global film powerhouse.
Aynne Kokas — a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of the book Hollywood Made in China — observed a “general tightening” of Chinese media and predicted fewer Hollywood films would be allowed.
However, Hollywood has prospered without China, and that may be the new normal. “No Way Home” has grossed $1.9 billion worldwide and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has grossed over $900 million worldwide.