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Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a smash hit around the world, one final PR and marketing push remains for Disney — China, the world’s second-largest movie market.
The film will be given its China premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on the evening of Dec. 27. Newly minted franchise stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, along with director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, are all confirmed to attend. Force Awakens will be shown on an IMAX screen specially built for the event. Disney says other surprise elements will be unveiled on the night.
Force Awakens opened to a staggering $517 million worldwide gross over the weekend, the second-best global debut in history after Jurassic World ($524.9 million). Jurassic World‘s figures, however, included a $99 million opening weekend in China. But Force Awakens doesn’t get its wide release there until Jan. 9.
Disney has waged an ambitious marketing campaign to bring the local Chinese audience up to speed on the franchise, which is a surprisingly unknown entity in much of the country. Stormtroopers have mounted the Great Wall, Star Wars exhibitions are being held in shopping malls in major cities, and Lu Han, a pop star with Bieber-esque online reach, was recruited as an honorary Jedi and spokesman.
Last week, THR spoke with the CEOs of China’s largest movie theater chains to get their local box office predictions for Force Awakens — the average forecast was $277.5 million, which would make the movie the second-highest grossing Hollywood title ever in the country, behind only Furious 7 ($390.1 million).
Although delayed foreign openings usually erode box office, some industry watchers have suggested that the late China release could play to Disney’s advantage in this case — since Chinese filmgoers aren’t particularly attached to the franchise, opening after the movie has become a global phenomenon might mean they’ll be more compelled to check out what all of the fun and fuss is about.
Watch the the latest Chinese promotional video for Force Awakens, starring Lu Han, below.
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