Daisy Ridley, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Shanghai, Dec. 27, 2015
Cast member Daisy Ridley arrives at the China premiere of the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Shanghai Dec. 27, 2015. Reuters/Aly Song

The global blockbuster film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke records in China with an estimated $33 million in ticket sales on its first day in the world’s second-largest movie market, Walt Disney Co. said Saturday. The figure represents the Disney film studio’s biggest opening day ever in China and the highest Saturday opening day in the country in industry history, the company said.

“The Force Awakens,” the seventh installment in the science-fiction franchise created by George Lucas, is the top-grossing movie of all time in the biggest film market, the U.S. and Canada, and has set records around the world. Global sales through Thursday reached $1.6 billion, Disney said. Updated results will be released Sunday.

China will help decide whether “The Force Awakens” tops “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film in Hollywood history. “Avatar” took in $2.8 billion after its debut in December 2009.

The “Star Wars” saga that began in 1977 had not been a cultural phenomenon in China as it had been in other countries. The original movies weren’t shown in Chinese theaters until last June. Disney launched a marketing blitz to build buzz, featuring 500 Stormtroopers on the Great Wall and promotions with a pop star dubbed China’s answer to Justin Bieber.