'Star Wars 7' breaks China box office record

The latest installment in the "Star Wars" universe has grossed roughly US$53 million in the Chinese market last weekend, breaking the Chinese box office record as the highest two-day weekend opening.
Fans crowd a Chinese theater for the midnight debut showing of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Beijing on Jan. 8, 2016. [Photo courtesy of RealD China / China.org.cn]

The China figures represent "the highest Saturday and Sunday opening of all-time there, as well as the biggest industry opening Saturday of all-time" in the country, according to a statement released by Walt Disney Studios. A few Chinese theaters even held 4 a.m. showings for cheering fans.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens," earned more than US$33 million during its Saturday debut in China, ranking third in history only after "Furious 7" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
The film is also the biggest opening film for Disney in the studio's box office history in China. Even excluding midnight preview box office numbers, "The Force Awakens" stood as the second biggest opening for a foreign film ever in the Chinese market with 195 million yuan (US$29.67 million), only behind "Furious 7."
Meanwhile, IMAX screens took in US$8.1 million in two days, "far exceeding any previous 2-day opening," according to Disney.

Disney said it hoped to see China, the world's second-largest box office market, help this episode break the global record of US$2.78 billion set by "Avatar" in 2010.

Thus far, "The Force Awakens" has grossed US$1.733 billion worldwide as it also topped North American box office charts for the fourth consecutive weekend. The movie has now become the third highest-grossing film in global history, only behind "Avatar" and "Titanic," both by director James Cameron.

"The Force Awakens" grossed US$812 million in record time and is the biggest grossing film of all time in the American domestic market, beating the previous record-holder "Avatar."

Chinese box office results will decide how far "The Force Awakens" can go. Disney tried to please and educate Chinese audiences by screening all six previous installments at the Shanghai International Film Festival last year, holding exhibitions, grand promotional events at the Great Wall as well as a big premiere in Shanghai, and also hired a popular teen idol Lu Han to jointly promote the film.

In China, there’s a lack of nostalgia and a big fan base with fond memories of the past episodes. All the hype surrounding the film seemed to only confuse and bore moviegoers and the word-of-mouth aspect was not as good as it was in the west.

On RottenTomatoes.com, a movie critic rating site, the film gained a 93 percent rating with favorable reviews from all 323 reviews. On IMDB, a global movie database, the film was given an 8.5 rating out of 10 by fans.

Chinese audiences have a mostly favorable but still mixed reaction, with “The Force Awakens” being rated a 7.5 out of 10 at Douban.com, China's leading entertainment rating site.

Han Haoyue, a veteran film critic at Beijing Times, is a typical example. "From the perspective of a non-Star Wars fan, the film has almost all the elements of a second-class commercial blockbuster," Han commented. "The movie's makers, with their amazingly insular spirit, have managed to create a replica that lacks creativity."

He said the film's box office grosses in China have little chance of surpassing that of "Furious 7."

J.J. Abrams has recently responded to criticism of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" when he was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, commenting on suggestions that it has a little too much in common with the original "Star Wars," with both the plot and structure at the heart of the "rip-off" criticisms.

"I can understand that someone might say, 'Oh, it's a complete rip-off!' What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new - to go backwards to go forwards."

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