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'Star Wars' blasts off in China with record $53 million

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" proved a big draw in China, the world's second-largest movie market, grossing an estimated $53 million in ticket sales in its first two days in theaters.

That studio-estimated gross is the biggest Saturday-Sunday box-office opening ever in China. It did 70% better than the previous holder of that particular record -- Paramount Pictures' "Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation." 

China is the last market to open "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," adding to the Lucasfilm picture's already massive worldwide haul. It's now the third biggest movie ever, globally ($1.73 billion), behind just "Titanic" and "Avatar." 

FULL COVERAGE: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

In the U.S. and Canada, it's already the all-time top film (not adjusting for inflation) with $812 million in domestic ticket sales since it debuted Dec. 17, including $41.6 million from this weekend. 

The Chinese market has become increasingly important for Hollywood studios, and Disney has pushed hard to prime the most-populous nation for the latest "Star Wars" film. 

In the run-up to the debut, Disney had to contend with the fact that few Chinese moviegoers had ever seen a “Star Wars” film in theaters, nor did they share U.S. fans' nostalgia for the series' beloved droids and Wookiees.  

The company arranged to have the six previous episodes shown at the Shanghai International Film Festival to help stoke interest. In one marketing stunt, the studio sent Stormtroopers to take over the Great Wall.

Some Chinese cinema chain bosses have predicted that the film could eventually sell $300 million in tickets there. The all-time highest-grossing Hollywood film in China is "Furious 7," with about $380 million.

The China opening for "Star Wars" was good news for large-screen cinema company Imax Corp. Imax screens accounted for $8.1 million in Chinese box office, about 15% of the opening gross for "Star Wars" in that country. It was the biggest two-day opening ever for Imax in China.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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