For nearly three years, Disney fans had almost nothing positive to say about now-fired CEO Bob Chapek. Guests were not happy with Chapek prioritizing profits over everything else. During that time, nearly everything seemed to go downhill at Disney theme parks, including food quality, merchandise quality, cleanliness of the Parks, and functionality of attractions. At the same time, prices for everything from hotels to food and Park tickets continued to climb and reach all-time highs.
Disney Parks were not the only part of The Walt Disney Company that suffered under Chapek’s tenure. Chapek was also unable to secure the release of major films in the world’s second-largest market — China. One of Disney’s biggest moneymakers is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the films bringing in more than $26 billion in 2022 alone. However, Disney lost out on billions more because those films did not release in China.
The last Marvel movie released in China was Avengers: Endgame, which came out in 2019 — admittedly while Bob Iger was CEO. During Chapek’s tenure, a number of other Marvel films were released, but missed the Chinese market — Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love & Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Now, it appears that Bob Iger has been able to make another massive move — re-securing Marvel Studios releases in China. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Beijing has lifted its ban on Marvel films and will be showing Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — which premiered worldwide in early November — and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Black Panther 2, which released across the rest of the world in November, will unfurl in China on Feb. 7, followed by Ant-Man 3 on Feb. 17, day-and-date with North America.
Marvel shared the surprise news Tuesday over its official Chinese social media accounts. The two titles will be the very first movies of Marvel’s Phase 4 to screen in China, as the last approved theatrical releases from the studio were Spider-Man: Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame, way back in early/mid-2019. They also will test how the drought of MCU movies over the preceding years has affected fan sentiment around the franchise.
Unfortunately, we do not know how long the ban will be lifted or why Chinese censors banned the films in the first place. Chinese officials have never confirmed what issues they had with the films, which has led to widespread speculation. A couple of the films had brief LGBTQ+ moments, and one — Eternals — was directed by a Chinese woman who was openly critical of the Chinese government.
Marvel films are not the only Disney movies that have been banned recently in Chinese theaters. Lightyear was also unable to air in the country, presumably because of the LGBTQ+ couple featured in the film. Things between Disney and China began to move in a positive direction when China agreed to air the highly-anticipated film, Avatar: The Way of Water, in mid-December.