January 10, 2016 / 5:13 PM / 3 years ago

'Force Awakens' grosses $53 million in China, now third biggest movie ever

Five hundred replicas of the Stormtrooper characters from "Star Wars" are seen on the steps at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall of China during a promotional event for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" film, on the outskirts of Beijing, China, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

(Reuters) - “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke records in China with $53 million in ticket sales on its first weekend, propelling the movie to become the third highest-grossing film globally in history, Walt Disney Co said on Sunday.

The China figures represent the highest Saturday or Sunday movie opening in the country in industry history, the Disney film studio said in a statement.

Internationally, “The Force Awakens,” the seventh installment in the science fiction franchise created by George Lucas, brought its worldwide haul to $1.73 billion, Disney said. It has now shot past “Jurassic World’s” $1.67 billion global gross to become the third biggest movie ever.

China will help decide if “Force Awakens” tops “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film in Hollywood history. “Avatar” took in $2.8 billion after its December 2009 debut.

The “Star Wars” film saga that began in 1977 had not been a cultural phenomenon in China like it was in other countries. The original movies weren’t shown in Chinese theaters until last June. Disney launched a marketing blitz to build buzz, featuring 500 Stormtroopers on the Great Wall and promotions with a pop star dubbed China’s answer to Justin Bieber.

Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Ros Russell

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