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Disney's 'Jungle Cruise' Sinks At Chinese Box Office: What Went Wrong

The Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) “Jungle Cruise” had its belated Chinese premiere more than three months after its U.S. opening and promptly sank at the box office with a dismal $3.3 million in ticket sales.

What Happened: “Jungle Cruise,” an action/adventure film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, opened in the U.S. on July 30 in both a theatrical and Disney+ streaming release. To date, it has been the last Disney film to reach audiences in a dual presentation. To date, the film has grossed $215 million globally.

But according to Hollywood Reporter coverage, “Jungle Cruise” was overwhelmed at the Chinese box office by two locally produced films that premiered over the weekend — the mystery “Be Someday,” with a $20 million gross, and the biopic “Anita” about singer-actress Anita Mui ,with a $6.3 million gross.

The epic “The Battle of Lake Changjin” has shown continued success. It took in $4.8 million at the box office and has grossed a record-breaking $882 million to date.

Besides the preference by Chinese audiences for local fare, the Hollywood Reporter also acknowledged “rampant piracy” along with a “limited marketing effort from Disney” as further damaging the release of “Jungle Cruise.”

Also, China’s government limits the quantity of international films allowed into the country. According to a Deadline report, “Jungle Cruise” reached China within a batch of Hollywood productions that included “Dune,” “No Time to Die,” “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins” and “Vivo.” The latter is an animated feature from Sony Pictures (NYSE: SONY) that bypassed U.S. theaters this summer and went straight to streaming via Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).

Related Link: Disney's 'Eternals' Outpaces 'Clifford The Big Red Dog' At Weekend Box Office

Why It Matters: Despite the poor commercial returns, “Jungle Cruise” is something of a victory for Disney, which has seen several of its films blocked by Chinese government officials.

While no official reason has been given for not allowing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” into the Chinese marketing, it is widely believed that the Chinese censors were reacting to negative comments about the nation’s Communist government by “Shang-Chi” star Simu Liu and “Eternals” director Chloé Zhao, both of whom were born in China and now reside in the U.S.

No agreement has been reached on when or if “Shang-Chi” and “Eternals” will play in China, and no U.S. production has been scheduled for release for the remainder of November.

Photo: Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in "Jungle Cruise," courtesy of Disney.

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