The seventh Star Wars installment broke Chinese box office records on Saturday if estimates from Walt Disney are to be believed.
According to the Financial Times, the entertainment giant estimates that $33 million (218 million yuan) in tickets were sold on Saturday, making it the highest Saturday opening in mainland cinema history.
The Star Wars film saga that began in 1977 was not a cultural phenomenon in China as it was in other parts of the world. The original movies weren’t shown in Chinese theaters until last June, leaving aficionados of the franchise to watch pirated copies of the earlier films.
Zi Feiyu, an independent Chinese film critic told the FT, “The Star Wars series has a group of die-hard fans in China, even though the old Star Wars series was never released in China.”
Disney launched a huge marketing blitz in China to build buzz around the film prior to its release, dispatching 500 Stormtroopers to the Great Wall in early December as part of a high profile publicity stunt.
China’s total box office take increased 49 per cent in 2015, according to state figures, generating $6.8bn in revenues. The country is adding an average of 22 screens a day.