Star Wars: The Force Awakens scored a record $52.6 million (Dh193.1 million) two-day opening in China this weekend, but the blockbuster space opera still looks increasingly unlikely to overtake Avatar’s all-time global box-office record.
Results in the world’s most populous nation were mixed, especially since studio Disney needs a huge return at the globe’s second largest box office if it is to challenge Avatar’s $2.78 billion from 2009/2010. The Force Awakens, which has now opened in all major territories and is in its fourth week of release in many, had posted $1.733 billion globally by the end of the weekend.
Although The Force Awakens also scored the biggest ever Chinese Saturday, $33 million, its figures pale somewhat in comparison with 2015’s most successful Hollywood films. Fast & Furious 7 opened to a staggering $182.4 million in April, while Avengers: Age of Ultron managed $155.7 million a month later, and Jurassic World posted $99.1 million in June. All were three-day weekend bows, but The Force Awakens’ $52.6 million over two days still looks weaker.
Disney mounted a huge marketing campaign in China, flying in an army of 500 stormtroopers to line up on the Great Wall of China in October. High-profile local pop stars, including Lu Han of Exo, have been hired to introduce trailers and record promotional songs.
However, it appears fears that Star Wars simply does not have the requisite cultural cachet in China may have proven well-founded. In 1977, when the original space opera trilogy ushered in the modern blockbuster era, there were few cinemas in the country. The much-maligned prequels, whose style Abrams has deliberately avoided on The Force Awakens, are better known locally.
With JJ Abrams’ movie also dropping more than 50 per cent in North America this weekend, where it scored $41 million and was almost beaten to the No 1 spot by the Leonardo DiCaprio-led Oscar-contender The Revenant, The Force Awakens now looks better-placed to challenge second-placed Titanic’s $2.18 billion from 1997 by the time it slips out of cinemas.
Abrams’ film has been hampered in its efforts by poor performances outside North America and the UK. It became the highest-grossing film of all time in both countries over the past week, and passed $800 million in the US and Canada this weekend, the first movie ever to do so.