'Star Wars 7' becomes top-grossing film in US

Disney's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" reached another staggering milestone as it has topped "Avatar" to become North America’s highest grossing film of all time as the company prepares for it to open in China on Saturday.
Producer Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and leading actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega attend a press conference on Dec. 28, 2015 after the Chinese premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." [Photo/China.org.cn]

"This afternoon, with early box office results in, Star Wars: The Force Awakens became the highest grossing film of all time in the domestic market, surpassing the US$760.5M gross of Avatar in a record-shattering 20 days of release," Walt Disney Studios said in a statement on Wednesday.
20th Century Fox's "Avatar" grossed US$760.6 million and held the title of the highest grossing film at the domestic box office in North America for nearly six years. The gross took "Avatar"318 days to accomplish, including a special late summer 2010 re-release.
Disney added, "In addition, the film crossed the US$800 million mark at the international box office today." Previous statistics show that through Tuesday, the film had grossed a global total of US$1.557 billion since its Dec. 16 global debut. Concerning worldwide grosses, only three movies stand before it -- "Avatar" (US$2.787 billion), "Titanic" (US$2.186 billion) and "Jurassic World" (US$1.668 billion).
On the official website of the movie StarWars.com, the team behind the new "Star Wars" film posted a thank you note to fans, "Star Wars fans have kept a galaxy far, far away alive for close to 40 years. Without them, there is no Star Wars," it reads.
The movie now holds the records for biggest opening day at the U.S. domestic box office (US$119.1 million), biggest opening weekend at the domestic box office (US$247.96 million), and biggest IMAX opening at the domestic box office (US$30.1 million), among many others.
"We are proud of these records, but know that they would not be possible without fans' enthusiasm and continued support. We feel it here and it drives us every day, and it will continue to in the very bright future of Star Wars. There has indeed been an awakening -- and it’s all thanks to you," the note said.
The space saga blockbuster will hit Chinese theaters nationwide on Saturday. The film's China performance will decide how high the movie can go in terms of worldwide grosses as China has become the second largest film market in the world. Most observers believed it could end up at No. 2, surpassing the box office record of "Titanic," but, it is not easy to top the worldwide total of "Avatar."
Director J.J. Abrams, leading actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, and producer Kathleen Kennedy, as well as two droids R2-D2 and BB-8, pose for a photo on top of a building with the Shanghai skyline behind them on Dec. 28, 2015 before a press conference to promote "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." [Photo/China.org.cn]

Director J.J. Abrams, leading actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, as well as producer Kathleen Kennedy and special guest star Donnie Yen attended the China premiere in Shanghai on Dec. 27, 2015 and held a press conference the next day.
Abrams watched the Chinese premiere screening in Shanghai with a Chinese audience and he was thrilled to see people "laughing and cheering in exactly the same places that we've seen other audiences."
"It's a testament to the power of cinema, that it does not matter where you're from, you can get caught up in a story," Abrams later said at the news conference.
"Star Wars" producer Kathleen Kennedy echoed the observation and said the movie's box office success to date was "a huge surprise."
"It's always extraordinary to me when you tell a story and when you show it to audiences all over the world and people are clapping, laughing, and screaming at the same time, I find that incredibly comforting, because I think it really does make the world a small place, how much alike we all are, and how important the storytelling is," she said.
"We certainly hoped for enormous success but I think the fact that we crossed the billion-dollar mark... it's almost so overwhelming it's difficult to really process just what the response has been to the movie so far, and it hasn't even opened here yet," she said."Certainly we're hoping and anticipating that it will play very, very well here."
As for the fact that China doesn't have a huge fan base for the film franchise as it does in the Western countries, the director said the film can still connect people all over the world, comparing the film to Shanghai city, "the movie is sort of like Shanghai itself, which is an incredible city, someone can come here for the first time and see this amazing place, this epic city with its incredible energy and amazing people, and appreciate it for what it is. But it also has an incredible history, you can also go back and learn about Shanghai and how it has been and how it became what it is. This movie is very much the same thing about new characters. It is a brand new story with new characters. And yet, it's the world that George Lucas created quite a while ago, it’s something that was very powerful to me as a kid and hopefully people will feel the same for the new installment. "
To please Chinese audiences and establish a stronger connection with people here, Kennedy said they had just finished shooting "Rogue One," the first stand alone "Star Wars" story. Hong Kong martial arts actor Donnie Yen and Chinese actor and director Jiang Wen have roles in it.
"They play wonderful characters and certainly there are many mythologies inside Chinese literature that I know we can explore in the future and find ways in which we can integrate some of those stories into the Star Wars universe," she said.

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