Star Wars: The Force Awakens generates $53 million in opening weekend in China

Director J.J. Abrams attends 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' premiere at Shanghai Grand Theatre on December 27, 2015 in Shanghai, China.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens generated $53 million (AED 194.6 million) at the box office during its opening weekend in China, adding to the success of a film that’s chasing the global record set by “Avatar” about six years ago. China helped the seventh installment of the four-decade-old epic gross an estimated $145.9 million (AED 535.8 million) globally over the weekend and $1.7 billion (AED 6.24 billion) since the science-fiction movie was first released four weeks ago, according to a statement from Disney on Sunday. That makes it the third-highest grossing movie of all time behind "Avatar" and "Titanic," according to Inc.’s Box Office Mojo. Success in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, is becoming increasingly crucial for Hollywood studios as analysts predict ticket sales in the country will overtake those of the U.S. as soon as next year. Receipts at China’s box office surged nearly 50% last year, compared with the 7.2% growth seen in North America. For Disney, which bought the "Star Wars" franchise from George Lucas in 2012, its latest blockbuster has been a success, particularly at home. The movie zoomed past the $760.5 million (AED 2.8 billion) record set by “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada in just 20 days. Still, Disney faces bigger hurdles in matching its U.S success in China and other Asian countries, where the "Star Wars" franchise isn’t as well known or have as big a following as in Western countries. For example, the movie didn’t even open as No. 1 in South Korea and Vietnam. Nomura Holdings Inc. estimates "The Force Awakens" will gross as much as 1.5 billion yuan (AED 837.4 million) in China, which would fall short of breaking records set last year. Researcher Rentrak Corp. estimates "Furious 7” generated $391.4 million (AED 1.43 billion) in the country in 2015 and “Monster Hunt,” a Chinese fantasy movie, grossed $393.2 million (AED 1.44 billion). (Bloomberg/ Grace Huang)

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