No China made a difference.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” this weekend challenged the foreign and worldwide box office records set by the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World,” and impressively did it without benefiting from the world’s second-largest movie market, China.
The J.J. Abrams-directed space epic has taken in $279 million abroad since it began rolling out Wednesday, distributor Disney reported Sunday.
That falls short of the dinosaurs’ international opening weekend record of $316.1 million and their record for a worldwide — that is foreign and domestic grosses combined — opening weekend of $524.9 million within range. “The Force Awakens” brought in a record $238 million-plus over the weekend at the North American box office, so its worldwide or global total is roughly $517 million.
“The Force Awakens” opened this weekend in virtually every major market except Greece, India and China, where it will debut on January 9. It will roll out next Thursday in Greece and India. The decision to delay the China opening was made by the country’s government, which reviews and dates of every foreign film with an eye toward protecting its homegrown film industry.
China, with roughly 30,000 screens — the U.S. has about 40,000 — delivered nearly $100 million of the international haul that “Jurassic World” managed in its opening weekend abroad this summer. That was a significant hurdle for “Star Wars” to overcome.
When it does open behind the Great Wall, success is no given, because the Chinese are not huge “Star Wars” fans. They have seen only the last three releases in the series, prequels that didn’t resonate with the Chinese at the box office: 1999’s “The Phantom Menace ($5 million), 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” ($7.2 million) and 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith” ($11.7 million).