Biggest 'Avengers: Endgame' fan extravaganza held in China

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 19, 2019
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Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, "Thor" actor Chris Hemsworth, "Captain America" Chris Evans, "Hawkeye" Jeremy Renner, "Ant-Man" Paul Rudd and president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige pose for a photo with 8,500 fans inside the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center. This took place during the grand fan gala to promote "Avengers: Endgame" held in Shanghai on April 18, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]

Disney held the biggest fan event ever for its upcoming juggernaut superhero blockbuster "Avengers: Endgame" in Shanghai on Thursday night. The fan extravaganza kicked off just as its midnight debut ticket pre-sales skyrocketed to a record-breaking 100 million yuan.

About 8,500 fans packed the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, cheering, crying and clapping for their heroes whom they grew up with in the past decade. It was a scene akin to going to a Avengers rock concert and the event was broadcast live on 30 major online streaming platforms in China.

"This is not just the biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan event in the history of China," president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige said to fans on stage." This is the biggest MCU fan event in the history of the world, thank you."

Kevin Feige, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, as well as "Captain America" actor Chris Evans, "Thor" Chris Hemsworth, "Hawkeye" Jeremy Renner, "Ant-Man" Paul Rudd appeared onstage to greet fans and shared their insights and memories. A notable absence was "Iron Man" actor Robert Downey Jr., who promised to come to China but had to cancel due to "personal reasons," Joe Russo explained.

Thousands of fans all over China rushed to register on an online platform at the end of March to get free tickets to the event. This system was implemented as Disney had learned from its past experiences with successful Comic-Cons overseas. The tickets were all snapped up in seconds.

Disney decided not to call its Marvel Studios event a "premiere" because there was no film screening, but this was clearly a well-organized "compensation" for last year's fiasco fan event for "Infinity War." In that event, Chinese celebrities took the spotlight instead of Marvel stars, and fans were chaotically packed onto the red carpet area a day before the event, causing great security concerns and complaints. 

At the Shanghai event and a previous press conference, the creators and cast remained tight-lipped whenever they were pressed by the media or fans for details on the plot of "Endgame." The director Joe Russo would literally take away the microphone from any cast members before they even attempted to answer such questions.

But its directors did eventually reveal something. At the fan gala, an audience member asked the Russo brothers who they would pick if one more Marvel character were to join the Avengers. Joe Russo said he'd choose Wolverine, a superhero from Marvel's X-Men franchise previously under 20th Century Fox. As Disney acquired Fox on March 20, this now seems like a real possibility.

Anthony Russo quickly issued a challenge, "Kevin, can you work on that?" Kevin Feige smiled back.

On another question about whether there would be a Chinese superhero in future Avengers movies, Feige answered "yes." Previous reports suggested that Marvel Studios is developing "Shang-Chi," a Marvel character based on the late kung fu megastar Bruce Lee.

"China is the best," Joe Russo added. "Kevin said it the other day that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would not be what it is today without its Chinese Marvel fans, so thank you very, very much. As a thank-you, China gets to watch 'Avengers: Endgame' before anywhere else in the world!"

Actors Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth on the stage at the grand fan event to promote "Avengers: Endgame" in Shanghai on April 18, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]

China will debut this highly-anticipated blockbuster on April 24, making it the first country in the world to screen the movie publicly. Since ticket pre-sales began, the numbers coming in are staggering. As the movie's producers and cast interacted with fans on Thursday night, "Endgame" set another new box office record. It now has the biggest-ever midnight screening ticket pre-sales, hitting more than 100 million yuan (US$14.9 million). The total ticket pre-sales is now 400 million yuan (US$59.62 million), just six days before the film's debut. Given this, it is almost certain, that the final number would create a new series of box office records. 

As China gears up for the three-hour long epic movie debut, cinemas scrambled to add more screening dates and raised ticket prices. This has caused controversies which critics attribute to various reasons. Some say this only reflects corporate greed and cinemas' opportunistic desire to cash in on diehard fans, and certain cinemas wanting to steal some profits from box office revenue without reporting their own real sales numbers to China's film authorities, which have a system to oversee box office revenue nationwide day by day. With that in mind, it's no surprise that some cinemas are charging sky-high prices – from 300 yuan (US$44.77) to even more than 1,000 yuan (US$149) per ticket. To be fair, most of the more expensive tickets are for IMAX screenings, which is said to give cinema-goers the best viewing experience. This is due to its bigger screen, which allows for 26% more picture in the frame compared to standard theaters. reported that the China Film Administration has issued instructions to regulate and curb ticket prices and would revoke the permit of theaters to screen "Avengers: Endgame," if they violated the instructions.

The past decade has seen 21 Marvel superhero films amassing a total gross revenue of US$18 billion worldwide. In China, these superhero films are also big earners, and "Infinity War" now stands as the highest-grossing superhero film nationwide, with a box office income of 2.39 billion yuan (US$356.5 million). How huge "Avengers: Endgame" will end up still remains to be seen, its worldwide box office income in its opening weekend, which will include China's contribution, will likely go beyond US$900 million, according to speculation by box office analysts.

But "Avengers: Endgame" is "not the end of the MCU," said John Hsu, general manager of Walt Disney Studios China, "In future, we will present a more exciting and varied MCU for fans. Everyone can find their own heroes there."

Actor Chris Evans excitedly poses for a photo with fans on the red carpet of a grand fan event to promote "Avengers: Endgame" in Shanghai on April 18, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]
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