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We all know that the Star Wars saga is one of, if not the most popular franchise in the world. But in one of the biggest movie markets on the planet, China, they have been unavailable, at least until now. A new deal struck between Disney and massive Chinese tech company Tencent has given fans access to the complete set of Star Wars films.
Home Media Magazine reports that, leading up to the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney and Tencent released all six Star Wars movies on VOD and various Chinese subscription services on September 14. This marks the first time that Episodes I through VI have been readily available to Chinese consumers.
Back in June, Star Wars and China celebrated another first together, as the entire saga was publicly screened in Chinese theaters for the first time at the Shanghai International Film Festival. Before then, fans that wanted to see the beloved space opera had to resort to bootlegs, illegal copies, and illicit downloads to get their fix of that far, far away galaxy.
When George Lucas first released Star Wars in 1977, China was just coming out of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (he died in 1976), which sought to purge outside influences from Chinese culture. Though things were gradually changing, Star Wars took over the rest of the world, but never made it to Chinese theaters until earlier this year.
The deal between Disney and Tencent is a big deal for the ultimate financial success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No matter what, the movie was already going to make a ton of money, but as China has become and increasingly important international market—it’s the second largest market in the world behind the U.S.—it is a huge piece of the monetary puzzle for studios. With the movies now available in China for the first time, it is only going to broaden the fan base there to include viewers who haven’t had access to the films before and fan the flames for The Force Awakens.
Disney is also in the process of completing a massive Disneyland theme park in Shanghai, a multi-billion dollar proposition which will include a sizeable Star Wars section as part of the attraction. Again, expanding their brand and getting their movies out to the masses in a new market only makes smart business sense.
In addition to all of the Star Wars movies—which includes the prequels: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith; and the original trilogy: Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi—Chinese audiences also have access to a bunch of bonus material. They can watch a variety of behind the scenes videos, deleted scenes, shorts, and extras from the original movies.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.