UPDATE 1-'Star Wars' takes Chinese social media by storm, flirts with record release

Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:10pm EST
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* 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 (Adds link to Reuters TV video)

By Adam Jourdan and Lisa Richwine

SHANGHAI/LOS ANGELES, Dec 24 (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...