How much would you pay to be among the first to watch Avengers: Endgame? In China, some were willing to shell out $100—and that’s not even a black market price.
In the weeks leading up to the premiere of the highly anticipated Marvel sequel, cinemas in China expected high demand and raised prices accordingly—to up to three times the normal rate.
The exorbitant figures have made Endgame tickets something of a status symbol.
“Avengers 4 is not a movie,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter. “It’s a symbol of the divide between haves and have-nots.”
“Too many tuhaos watching this,” another person wrote, using a phrase for China’s nouveau riche that alludes to how they spend lavishly to show off their wealth.
At a multiplex in Shanghai, IMAX 3D screenings on opening day were going for $75. In Beijing: $100. (IMAX 3D screenings normally cost around $15 in China.)
Unlike theaters in the United States, where ticket prices are the same regardless of movie, theaters in China can charge different rates based on viewer demand.
In Hong Kong, a 2D screening of Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend was going for $25. By comparison, a screening of Still Human, a local film in its third weekend, cost $15.
Prices have settled since Endgame opened in China last Wednesday, but they are still high. An IMAX 3D screening at peak time in Shanghai was going for $45 on Monday.
The latest Avengers movie smashed box office records in China, raking in more than $115 million in presales alone, according to Maoyan, China’s largest movie ticketing app. The tickets had sold out within six hours of going up, making it the most anticipated film in history.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is immensely popular in China, where millennials have equated it to their generation’s Star Wars. The prequel, Avengers: Infinity War, is the third highest-grossing Hollywood film in China, but Endgame is on track to beating that record.
The Chinese market has become so lucrative that the latest Avengers movie opened in China two days before it did in the United States.
Whereas most Hollywood studios would release a film in America first to gauge its popularity before sending it abroad, Disney broke from that model with Avengers: Endgame.
The gamble appears to have paid off.
By the end of the five-day opening weekend, Endgame had made more than $330 million in China, according to box office tracker Ent Group, making it the biggest opening weekend ever.
In the United States, Endgame also broke records, raking in $350 million in its three-day opening weekend.
Worldwide, the film has already made more than $1 billion.