Franchise starter is Warners' third-highest bow in China

Making its final push overseas, Warner Bros.’ and MGM’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” launched Friday in China, where it earned $18.1 million, the fourth-highest three-day opening on the mainland.

China Film released the official figure Monday.

“The Hobbit,” which launched Dec. 14 in the States, reached almost $680 million internationally, with a worldwide tally hovering at just $20 million shy of $1 billion. Pic should hit that mark in the coming weeks, making it only the 15th film to do so.

The film’s Chinese opening also ranks as Warner’s third-highest debut locally, behind “The Dark Knight Rises” ($31 million) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ ($29.7 million), which had seven-day and four-day openings in China, respectively.

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