'On Stranger Tides' Sails to a No. 2 All-Time Foreign Opening in China

Disney Enterprises

The fourth 'Pirates' film sails in behind 'Avatar' as the second-highest grossing imported film.

CHENGDU, China -- Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides stormed its way onto China’s cinemas, racking up 142.1 million yuan ($21.8 million) in just three days, making it the second highest-grossing three-day weekend opening for an imported film after Avatar, a spokesman for The Walt Disney Company said on Tuesday.

Pirates, starring Johnny Depp, bested by 8 million yuan the previous No. 2 imported film opening over three days, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

Pirates’ China opening was second only to its opening in Russia, where Depp made an appearance for the premiere, the spokesman said in an email to The Hollywood Reporter.

On Monday, China’s sole licensed film importer, the state-run China Film Group, said Pirates’ ticket sales were but 123 million yuan, but Disney learned that a couple of cinema circuits had suffered system breakdowns and failed to file their box office receipt reports in time for the three-day opening weekend tally.

The China lifetime gross for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was roughly 125 million yuan, a figure that, when adjusted for inflation, already has been outpaced by the first three days of ticket sales for On Stranger Tides.

The exponential growth in China’s box office reflects a building boom in multiplexes nationwide, which are adding some three screens per day.

China’s 2010 year-end box office gross nationwide rose 64% to hit $1.5 billion. 

Without a big boost from an Avatar-sized title in theaters in the first quarter this year, January-March ticket sales growth was up a slower but respectable 8.8%, according to Shanghai-based industry consultancy Artisan Gateway.