‘Star Wars’ sets opening weekend record in North America

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set a record for the highest-grossing opening weekend at the US and Canadian box office with an estimated $238 million (Sh24.3 billion) in sales, Walt Disney studios said on Sunday.

The figure shatters the previous record set by “Jurassic World” earlier this year when it premiered to $208.8 million.

Globally, the latest “Star Wars” space epic raked in an estimated $517 million, Disney said, breaking records for biggest opening weekend abroad in 18 other countries, including Russia and Germany, and second biggest across four nations.

The worldwide figure puts the film in second place behind “Jurassic World,” which earned $524.9 million globally in its first weekend.

The highly anticipated “Force Awakens” has blazed a record-setting trail since its domestic debut Thursday, taking the prize for highest-grossing domestic opening night with $57 million and biggest domestic single-day sales Friday with $120.5 million.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” previously held both records at $43.5 million for an opening night and $91 million for a first day.

‘Mind-blowing’ ticket sales

Analysts had long predicted that the seventh instalment of the space saga, which cost Disney an estimated $200 million to produce, could score the biggest opening weekend ever and could even become the biggest film of all time.

One of them, longtime movie analyst Paul Dergarabedian, called the staggering box office numbers “mind-blowing.”

As far as all-time box office sales, two films by James Cameron hold the record—“Avatar” ($2.78 billion) and “Titanic” ($2.18).

“The Force Awakens” picks up the intergalactic story of good versus evil 30 years on from “The Return of the Jedi,” the last episode of the original trilogy.

The trio of heroes who appeared in the first of the blockbusters in 1977 — smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the rebel alliance, and her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) — are all back and played by the actors that “Star Wars” first made famous.

“Our sole focus has been creating a film that delivers that one-of-a-kind Star Wars experience,” Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios said in a statement Sunday.

The film is being screened in 4,134 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to industry tracker Rentrak.

From New York to Los Angeles, theaters were packed with many spectators buying their tickets more than a week in advance. In New York, some of the city’s larger theaters were playing the film every hour, beginning at 6:00 am.

“The Force Awakens” has now been released in nearly every market worldwide except Greece, where it will come out Thursday and China where it hits screens January 9.

“To all of the fans around the world who not only came out in Force to make this such an exciting and astronomical debut but who treated this film as their own and helped preserve the experience for their fellow fans by not spoiling it—thank you,” Horn said.

Other debuts dwarfed

Also debuting at the box office in the top ten this weekend were four other films, whose numbers seemed miniscule compared to the “Star Wars” hauling.

The animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” came in second place in its first weekend, with an estimated $14.4 million across 3,653 screens, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Landing in third and also in its debut weekend was “Sisters,” starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two siblings throwing one last party in their childhood home before it is sold. It earned only $13.4 million.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2,” the fourth and last movie in the blockbuster franchise that turned Jennifer Lawrence into a Hollywood megastar, earned $5.7 million, falling to fourth place in its fifth week in theaters.

Meanwhile “Creed,” a next-generation version of the “Rocky” series earned some $5.1 million to land in fifth, in its fourth week on the big screen.

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