China: They make people for Earth, stuff for America, and blockbusters for Hollywood. As one of the fastest-growing markets on the planet, Hollywood films constantly jockey for supremacy in the bustling, densely overpopulated China. And every now and then, the Chinese moviegoing public can provide an American film with a valuable infusion of box-office capital, certifying a smash hit or creating new ones from struggling pictures. This past weekend, the folks at Marvel Studios received a pleasant surprise via a reminder of China’s buying power when their Ant-Man performed impressively at the Asian box offices.

Thus far, Marvel has regarded Ant-Man as a bit of an underperformer for the juggernaut studio, but of course, terms like these are relative. When the standard has been set at “obscene, sense-defying success,” everything below that feels inadequate. The film’s $178 million take may certainly sound good, but less so when you consider that the production budget alone was $130 million, and even less so when stacked up against former Marvel creations. Ant-Man was the third-lowest earning project for Marvel, just ahead of The Incredible Hulk (the Ed Norton one) and Captain America: The First Avenger. Not quite a flop but also not making what the industry rags might call “boffo” box office, Ant-Man debuted this past weekend in China a full three months after its U.S. release to a surprising haul.

The colorful story of thief-turned-hero Scott Lang struck a chord with Chinese audiences, to the tune of $43.2 million in the last three days. Again, that may not appear to be too much money when contrasted with the film’s domestic earnings, but that actually represents the second-largest Chinese opening for a Disney/Marvel film on record. (The first, of course, was Avengers: Age of Ultron.) Lang and his army of ant minions marched away with healthy grosses all over the globe like so many breadcrumbs from the great picnic that is film commerce, ultimately grossing over $454 million worldwide, nearly $276 million of that from non-American markets.

Naturally Marvel has noted this and reacted appropriately, green-lighting a sequel for 2018 right out of the gate and stoking the flames of anticipation for what we now know will be called Ant-Man and the Wasp. Marvel’s clearly banking that Chinese moviegoers will be drawn to any and all future Ant-Man properties like an ant or wasp to a flame, neither of which are moths, but still.

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