'Star Wars' takes Chinese social media by storm, flirts with record release
* Chinese online posts show surging interest in franchise
* First Disney 'Star Wars' film opens in China on Jan. 9
* China key if Disney film to join top-grossing movies
* Early 'Star Wars' movies first shown in theatres this year
* Disney marketing blitz featured Great Wall, China pop star
By Adam Jourdan and Lisa Richwine
SHANGHAI/LOS ANGELES, Dec 23 (Reuters) - After a mammoth marketing campaign, growing online chatter in China around "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" suggests the latest installment of the hit franchise has a shot at breaking box office records in the world's second-largest movie market.
China is crucial if Walt Disney Co's first foray into the world of Jedi knights is to earn a spot among the top-grossing films of all time. The movie, the seventh in a near 40-year-old franchise, surged past "Jurassic World" to set a global opening weekend record of $529 million.
Disney has had to work hard for its "Star Wars" buzz in China. Though the franchise launched in 1977 - a year after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the death of China's founding leader Mao Zedong - the original films weren't shown in movie theatres until this June. Continued...