Star Wars makers hope the force is strong with Chinese market
The producers of the latest Star Wars blockbuster are hopeful that the movie will prove to be a hit in China following a glittering premiere in Shanghai.
The Force Awakens has already crossed the one billion dollar mark (£670 million) worldwide before JJ Abrams' movie makes its debut across China - the world's second-biggest film market - on January 9.
Following the film's Chinese premiere, director Abrams told a news conference he was thrilled to see people "laughing and cheering in exactly the same places that we've seen other audiences".
He said: "It's a testament to the power of cinema, that it does not matter where you're from, you can get caught up in a story."
Star Wars: The Force Awakens took 12 days to earn one billion dollars worldwide, becoming the fastest movie to achieve such a feat.
The previous record-holder was Jurassic World, which reached one billion dollars in 13 days in June - and that with the benefit of record grosses in China.
Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy said the movie's success to date was "a huge surprise".
"We certainly hoped for enormous success, but I think the fact that we crossed the billion dollars ... it's almost so overwhelming it's difficult to really process just what the response has been to the movie so far, and it hasn't even opened here yet," she said.
"Certainly we're hoping and anticipating that it will play very, very well here."
The Chinese market has become increasingly important for Hollywood as revenues from movie theatres stagnate at home. Some productions have incorporated Chinese characters or stories to try to appeal to the Chinese movie-going audience.
Asked whether Star Wars movies would do the same in the future, Kennedy said they had just finished shooting the stand-alone Star Wars story, Rogue One. Hong Kong martial arts actor Donnie Yen and Chinese actor and director Jiang Wen both have roles in this movie.
Kennedy said: "They play wonderful characters and certainly there are many mythologies inside Chinese literature that I know we can explore in the future and find ways in which we can integrate some of those stories into the Star Wars universe."