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‘Rogue One’ Opens in China Sharply Down From ‘The Force Awakens’

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” got off to a decent start in Chinese theaters, grossing $9.7 million (RMB66.5 million) and opening on top of the box office on Friday. But the debut was down from the launch of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The film earned $10.4 million, according to data from Ent Group, with previews from Thursday night screenings factored in. Local ticketing firm Weiying Technology shows “Rogue One” with a 60% market share on a quiet Friday that saw just $15.9 million generated by all movies nationwide. Heavy smog blanketing parts of the country may have dented cinema attendance.

The film’s release is delayed in comparison with the pre-Christmas outing in other territories, but it’s the first major Hollywood title to hit China in 2017. That is a similar course to “The Force Awakens,” which opened on Jan. 9 in 2016. In comparison with “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” looks weak.

“The Force Awakens” grossed $27.8 million on its Saturday opening day, and $53.2 million in its two-day weekend. However, comparisons are complicated as January of last year was before the Chinese box office turned down sharply in May 2016. Now, Chinese audiences are less wooed by ticket price discounts and may also have become somewhat jaded by last year’s content. Nevertheless, the number of commercial screens in operation in China is up by some 30% since this time last year.

“The Force Awakens” ended its run in China with $124 million, which at the time of hyperbole was seen in some quarters as a disappointment. But after the mid-year slowdown, perspectives were revised and the film’s 13th-place ranking looked strong.

At the time of “The Force Awakens” opening, Disney suggested that its huge marketing campaign was necessary as the “Star Wars” franchise had suffered a long hiatus in Chinese theaters. And it also indicated that “The Force Awakens” would help build the Chinese market for “Rogue One” and other upcoming franchise installments.

“Rogue One” has in its favor a full Friday to Sunday opening release pattern. And it has the presence of two Chinese stars – Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen – who were on promotional duty for the picture pre-Christmas.

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