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“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” took 142 million yuan ($21.9 million) in its first three days in China, making it the second-highest opening weekend for a foreign pic after “Avatar.”

Jack Sparrow’s swashbuckling exploits come at the start of what is expected to be a strong run for Hollywood movies in the world’s most populous nation, as expectations grow ahead of DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda 2,” due to bow in coming days.

The boffo box office figure for “Pirates 4” comes from Disney. China Film Group earlier reported it had earned $18.9 million, but system problems at some circuits meant B.O. figures were incomplete, Disney said.

“Pirates 4” opening is the biggest in China since Feng Xiaogang’s “If You Are the One 2” in December.

“Avatar” took $44.2 million in its opening week in January 2010, then went on to gross $190 million in China.

“Pirates 4” is playing in all formats, including 3D and Imax 3D, and it opened day-and-date in China with the U.S., Japan and most other markets on Friday.

The first installment, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” chalked up $3.4 million in China but the second pic, “Dead Man’s Chest,” was banned over cannibal scenes.

It was back to business with the third pic, “At World’s End,” with Disney reporting China gross of $19.23 million. This means that, once adjustments are made for exchange rates, the opening weekend figure for the fourth “Pirates” in the franchise is a major advance.