‘Star Wars’ Soars to Stellar Opening in China

Star Wars The Force Awakens Rey
Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has opened with a record-setting $33 million in China on Saturday.

The studio said the seventh Star Wars set Chinese records for best Disney opening day and the best Saturday opening day.

China, the second-largest market in the world after the U.S., is the final territory in the world to receive the blockbuster.

Chinese box office tracking service Ent Group reported a gross of $29.3 million for “The Force Awakens” from 82,900 screenings on Saturday. It also reported that the film had a cumulative in China of $31.7 million achieved from 5.18 million ticket sales. (In an earlier report Ent showed figures of $27.8 million from just under 78,900 screenings, and a cumulative total of $30.7 million achieved from 4.48 million ticket sales.)

Those numbers, however, imply a per ticket average of $5.66, the highest for any movie currently on release in China, reflecting the premiums that can still be achieved from 3D screenings and weekend releases. They also point to a strong average gross of $1,375 per screen.

The local figures also show “Star Wars” dominating the box office with a market share of some 71% on Saturday. Second placed film, “Detective Chinatown” earned $3.96 million ahead of “Mr Six,” with $2.34.

While the numbers fall largely within recent estimates of the opening day score, local analysts have cautioned against extrapolating too much from the first day. “The Force Awakens” benefits from an unusual Saturday release for a Hollywood movie. And the curiosity level will be unusually high with the film being the first major international picture to release in China for a month.

“The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, is expected to become the the third-largest worldwide grosser of all time this weekend, passing the $1.67 billion grossed worldwide by “Jurassic World” last year. After less than a month in theaters, it will trail only “Avatar” at $2.78 billion and “Titanic” at $2.19 billion.

The space saga set a U.S. record on Wednesday by passing “Avatar” and has a domestic gross of $781 million as of Friday.

Disney has marketed “The Force Awakens” aggressively in China, where the “Star Wars” saga has a short history because the first six films have not been released commercially — although they have played on television and in legal and illegal home entertainment formats.

Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, robots BB8 and R2D2, director JJ Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy were all on hand at a Dec. 27 premiere in Shanghai. “The Force Awakens” will come off screens in China by Feb. 8, the first day of the peak Chinese New Year season.