In "Thor: The Dark World," the titular hero does battle from London to Asgard. But perhaps Thor's greatest feat will be conquering China.
Just two years ago, superhero movies—including 2011's original "Thor"—underperformed other Hollywood genres in China. But in a short period, they've emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Chinese audiences have recently clocked the most ticket sales outside the U.S. for "Iron Man 3," "Man of Steel" and "The Wolverine" this year.
Keeping up the momentum in China is surely on the minds of executives at Walt Disney, owner of Marvel, and Warner Bros., which produces DC Comics movies. China is now the second-largest market for Hollywood films, and it's only growing. Ticket sales in the first nine months of 2013 are up 35 percent over last year, said Mike Ellis, head of the Motion Picture Association of America's Asia office.
"Overall the market's going great," said Ellis. "Studios are fully committed to getting the best films in the marketplace that they can."
Big budget and special effects spectaculars like the "Fast and Furious" and "Transformers" franchises do well in China. This is, in part, because the emphasis is not on dialogue and characterization, according to Rob Cain, president of consulting and production company Pacific Bridge Pictures. Superhero films may fit the bill, but they were an unknown in China a few years ago.
"The superhero was not very familiar and not terribly popular," said Cain. "I think it's caught on pretty nicely."
This year, "Iron Man 3, Man of Steel" and "The Wolverine" all made about 10 percent of their global revenues in China, according to Box Office Mojo data. Just two years ago, superhero movies underperformed in China by this measure.
(Read more: Foreign moviegoers are superheroes to Hollywood)