In my mind, there never was any doubt.
The latest Star Wars saga racked up US$52.6 million in China last weekend — the country’s biggest opening weekend of all time — despite naysayers predicting less than stellar results because moviegoers in the mainland are largely strangers to the franchise.
I guess there’s no such thing as a Star Wars China expert.
The Force Awakens has crushed box office records at a light-speed pace since opening worldwide (except China) in mid-December, amassing more records than any other film — nearly 50, according to Box Office Mojo.
Aside from being Disney’s top-grossing movie ever, it’s the fastest film to earn US$1 billion (12 days), is already the highest-grossing Star Wars film at US$1.73 billion (and counting), and has bragging rights for the biggest worldwide opening weekend and single weekend gross in history, with a take of US$529 million.
In China, the film, starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Harrison Ford, takes honors for biggest Saturday opening day at US$33 million, biggest Saturday to Sunday IMAX opening weekend at US$8.1 million and biggest IMAX Saturday gross at US$4.3 million, in addition to the biggest opening weekend record.
Big box office notwithstanding, feedback in China is mixed, said news website Quartz, which took a look-see at comments from Douban, a popular Chinese entertainment website that is like a combination of the Internet Movie Database and Myspace.
“I just could not tell the exact story line … The first half made me dizzy,” one blogger wrote.
“The foreign princess [perhaps confusedly referring to the character Rey] made me excited, but the story somehow became a reunion of the middle- and old-aged?”
China’s loyal Star Wars lovers reminisced like US fans.
“The opening background and the familiar but aging characters really bring back my childhood memories,” one blogger wrote.
Another said, “I wish I could finish watching the franchise in my lifetime.”
Analysts expect the Star Wars sequel to continue to do well in China even though it’s not uncommon for people there to mix up Star Wars with Star Trek.
Not unexpected, since the original Star Wars came out nearly 40 years ago, when western media was suppressed in China.
For less-informed Chinese viewers who happen to be reading EJ Insight now, here’s a short plot description of the original trilogy. (Warning: it’s pure satire by Stephen Colbert, host of the Late Show, but pretty darn accurate just the same. And hilarious.)
“Star Wars is a story of a simple farm boy who buys two robots,” Colbert begins.
“One looks like a garbage can, the other is programmed to be scared all the time for some reason.
“The robots lead the farm boy to an elderly shut-in who tells him they must defeat a handicapped man who needs a full-body respirator just to stay alive.”
Of Han Solo and Chewbacca, Colbert says, “Then they meet up with a criminal and his screaming dog friend, who give him a ride to outer space, where the farm boy makes out with his older sister.”
Colbert concludes with this: “The farm boy helps kill the bad guy because the bad guy killed his father even though he actually is his father.
“The whole thing ends with a dance party with a bunch of teddy bears and ghosts. And that’s Star Wars.”
Now, run along and go see it, okay?
The Star Wars blockbuster bests the previous Saturday to Sunday opening weekend in China box office record held by Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation by 70 percent.
Still, The Force Awakens has a long way to go to beat Furious 7 as China’s top-grossing movie, at US$390 million (before Monster Hunt passed it in the fall) and Transformers: Age of Extinction, which, at US$320 million, was China’s biggest-grossing movie before F7.
To that end, Disney named Chinese pop star Lu Han (often described as China’s answer to Justin Bieber) the official Star Wars ambassador and an honorary Jedi to tap his large fan base — mostly young Chinese girls — Quartz said.
Lu has nearly 12 million followers on Weibo and holds the Guinness World Record for most comments on a single post.
Globally, The Force Awakens leapt past the US$1.67 billion grossed worldwide by Jurassic World to become the No. 3 title of all time behind Avatar (US$2.78 billion) and Titanic (US$2.19 billion).
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