The Force Awakens chases Avatar's box-office record

•TOKYO • Walt Disney Co said Star Wars: The Force Awakens generated US$53 million (S$76 million) at the box office during its opening weekend in China, adding to the success of a film that is chasing the global record set by Avatar about six years ago.

China helped the film gross an estimated US$145.9 million globally over the weekend and US$1.73 billion since it was first released four weeks ago, said a Disney statement on Sunday. That makes it the third-highest grossing movie ever behind Avatar (US$2.79 billion) and Titanic (US$2.19 billion), according to Box Office Mojo. Jurassic World (US$1.67 billion) had previously been No. 3.

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 United States as soon as next year.

The Force Awakens zoomed past the US$760.5 million record set by Avatar to become the highest- grossing film in the US and Canada in just 20 days. Still, Disney faces bigger hurdles in China and other Asian countries, where the Star Wars franchise is not as well known or has as big a following as in the West. For example, the movie did not open No. 1 in South Korea and Vietnam. Nomura Holdings estimates The Force Awakens will gross as much as 1.5 billion yuan (S$326 million) in China, which would fall short of breaking records set last year.

Meanwhile, The Force Awakens managed to retain its crown at the North American box office for the fourth straight weekend, picking up US$41.6 million in receipts. That brings the space opera's stateside haul to US$812 million, making it the first film to ever cross US$800 million domestically.

It beat The Revenant to second place with US$38 million in its wide release debut.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'The Force Awakens chases Avatar's box-office record'. Print Edition | Subscribe