In recent months, Disney has worked hard in Asia to promote the Star Wars franchise in preparation of the December 17th release of the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 2013, Asia became Hollywood’s biggest international market. In China, films like Transformers, Jurassic World, and Avatar all rank within the top ten highest grossing movies of all time. With those successes in mind, Disney made efforts to ensure Star Wars will soon top that list by staging promotional events, such as one that featured 500 people in Stormtrooper costumes marching on the Great Wall. Another promotional campaign involved working in collaboration with 20th Century Fox and China’s Internet and technology giant Tencent to give the country’s internet users full access to the six previous Star Wars films.
In the Philippines, Globe Telecom has signed a multi-year partnership with Disney Southeast Asia in hopes of bringing the Star Wars fever to a new level. The company transformed their GEN3 stores, which typically offer the latest broadband technologies, devices, and apps, into Star Wars-themed hubs that now offer exclusive arcade games, premium collectible accessories, toys, and gadgets. This partnership also gave customers access to video-on-demand, interactive content, theatrical trailers, promotions, and other related marketing materials.
Leveraging the broad appeal of K-pop across Asia, Disney partnered with top Korean pop group EXO to release the song “Lightsaber” to promote the new movie in South Korea and China. Reaching nearly two million views in the first couple of days after its release, this collaboration was the latest in the growing relationship between Disney and music juggernaut SM Entertainment. Tapping into the huge international K-pop fanbase was a first for Disney, but may have helped attract fans to Star Wars from previously uninterested cultural demographics.
In Singapore, life-sized X-wing and TIE fighter spacecraft replicas from the movie were put on show at the Changi Airport as part of their annual year-end festive celebrations. Fans had the chance to take photos in both fighters, to meet well-loved characters from Star Wars, and to win exclusive Star Wars merchandise.
The success of American films in the Asian market has resulted in changing strategies for American film studios to make their movies more appealing to the Asian market. In addition to marketing and promotion efforts, more films are using popular actors or famous filming locales to generate interest. Avengers: Age of Ultron filmed some scenes in Seoul, South Korea to boost its appeal both in Korea and among global audiences that recognize the city from popular Korean dramas. Disney’s Big Hero 6 incorporated themes and motifs from Japanese art and culture, while Frozen’s popularity has resulted in the company planning a new addition to its Tokyo Disney theme park to be based on that film. As the economic clout of the Asian market continues to grow, American studios are likely to continue to look for new ways to make the most of it.
Raveena Ugale is a Reseach Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Senior at the George Washington University.