'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opening night sets box office record

NEW YORK -- "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has set a box office record with an estimated $57 million from Thursday night shows.

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The Walt Disney Co.'s estimate on Friday easily surpassed the previous Thursday night record of $43.5 million by 2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

The movie's international rollout, which began Wednesday, has brought in a total of $72.7 million. That includes the biggest single day ever in the United Kingdom, where it made an estimated $14.4 million. The film cost about $200 million to make, according to industry estimates.

The early figures suggest "The Force Awakens" is on course to exceed the record domestic opening of "Jurassic World," which debuted with $208.8 million in June.

J.J. Abrams' seventh chapter in George Lucas's space saga arrived with the kind of hoopla and anticipation that few films have ever matched. Costumed, lightsaber-wielding fans have lined up around blocks, from Jakarta to Paris, to be among the first to see "The Force Awakens" (and hopefully avoid any spoilers from its intensely guarded plot).

In North America, the film sold a record $100 million worth of presale tickets before Thursday previews began at approximately 7 p.m. EST. Playing in 4,134 theatres, "The Force Awakens" is the widest December release ever attempted.

3-D and Imax screenings are helping to propel the record gross. Disney said that 47 per cent of the box office came from 3-D showings and $5.7 million from Imax screens.

A lot is riding on the film for Disney, which paid $4.06 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012. Sequels and spinoffs are already in development for years to come, not to mention an entire corner of Disneyland devoted to the franchise.

Strong reviews for the film, which is set 30 years after "Return of the Jedi," have added to the fervour for "The Force Awakens." The American Film Institute listed it among its top 10 films of the year.

That strong word of mouth will help "The Force Awakens" attract the kind of repeat viewings that made James Cameron's "Avatar" and "Titanic" the highest grossing films of all time. Whether "The Force Awakens" can come close to the global hauls of those films ($2.8 billion for "Avatar" and $2.2 billion for "Titanic") won't be clear for weeks.


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