For much of the last 3 years Marvel has effectively been shut out of China — which certainly hasn’t helped. Indeed, even now that China's lifted its apparent restrictions on movies from the biggest entity in the superhero game, things aren’t looking much brighter for Marvel in the region.
New Black Panther and Ant-Man installments were the first Marvel movies to break the ban this year, but both have struggled to fully capitalize on the massive market. State-run tabloid The Global Times bemoaned the disappointing box office showings, cited poor critical and audience scores, and claimed that Chinese audiences have grown tired of “such movies in which one man saves the world”.
China's movie industry, on the other hand, is starting to pick up steam. The data above shows every movie since 2010 that's broken the $400m barrier at the global box office, and how reliant each movie has been on the US market for its takings. Most films need the US and the global market to make it onto this chart, but in the last 7 years China has started to produce its own megahits. Movies like The Battle at Lake Changjin, Hi, Mom and Detective Chinatown 2 have all made hundreds of millions of dollars, despite getting no release in the US whatsoever, relying almost solely on domestic success in China.
While talk of "peak superhero" could be premature at this point, it's interesting to look back on history to note the once-mighty genres that have had the curtain pulled down on them. Westerns and war movies once dominated our culture, while musicals had their golden era in the 1930s and 1940s. Even at the turn of the century, few could have predicted that comedies and romantic comedies would all but disappear from the big screen in the coming decades, but they have — pushed straight to streaming as audiences wanted the "wow" factor from a cinema trip. Time will tell for superheroes.