April 24, 2019 / 3:45 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Disney's 'Avengers: Endgame' smashes China opening day record

* Sets opening-day record with est $107.2 mln in ticket sales

* Becomes China's highest grossing foreign movie on first day

* Premiere tickets selling for hefty premium on gray market

* Final ticketing sales could be as high as 4.8 bln yuan-brokerage (Updates story published on Wednesday with more details of box office revenue, analyst comments)

By Lisa Richwine and Pei Li

LOS ANGELES/BEIJING, April 24 (Reuters) - Marvel superhero movie "Avengers: Endgame" set an opening-day record in China with an estimated $107.2 million in ticket sales, distributor Walt Disney Co said.

The movie, the final chapter of a story told across 22 Marvel films featuring popular characters such as Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow, smashed many records to become China's highest grossing foreign movie on first day when it was released on Wednesday, two days before its U.S. screening.

The movie, also the fastest to hit the 500 million yuan mark in ticket sales, dominated cinemas across China on Wednesday, totaling more than 80 percent of all screenings.

Some premiere tickets were so coveted that they were being sold on the gray market for more than 500 yuan ($74.14), versus an average of 60 yuan across cinemas nationwide.

"Ticket sales in China are estimated to reach 3 billion yuan," said Wu Jian, an analyst with Alibaba Pictures

"The success can be attributable to the nearly 20 Marvel movies over the past 11 years. From that, the Marvel franchise has built up and retained a lot of Chinese fans."

Brokerage Great Wall Securities said in a research note that the final ticketing sales of "Avengers: Endgame" could be as high as 4.8 billion yuan, which would make it the second best-performing movie in China after Wolf Warrior 2.

It would also be double of what its last sequel, "Avengers: Infinity War", made in the country - 2.4 billion yuan in 2018.

In addition, the movie could be a boost to China's motion pictures market amid Chinese consumers' waning interest in going to cinemas this year, analysts said.

Total first-quarter box office takings in China is currently down 8 percent on year, despite strong performance from Chinese-made sci-fi movie "The Wandering Earth" and help from the recent Chinese New Year holiday.

Movie box office revenue in China rose 9 percent last year to 61 billion yuan, slower versus the previous year, as the government cracked down on tax evasion in the industry and tightened rules on content.

The early screening has also created a lot of buzz on Chinese social media, which some fans cautioning others against posting spoilers.

"But with people paying more than 200 yuan to watch the movie at midnight, what do you expect them to do if they don't post spoilers to show off?" joked one commentator on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. ($1 = 6.7438 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Pei Li; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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