New ‘Star Wars’ Speeds Toward Record


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Fans in Hollywood attending the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Thursday.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Star Wars” fever has spread through movie theaters around the globe, even reaching the White House, as the series yet again began toppling box-office records.

After a record $57 million from Thursday night showings in North America and packed matinees on Friday, Walt Disney projected that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” would surpass $215 million over the weekend, beating the record-setting domestic opening of “Jurassic World,” which debuted with $208.8 million in June.

Such an outcome would surprise few analysts, but the numbers were nevertheless remarkable. “The Force Awakens” was heading toward a Thursday night and Friday total of more than $120 million domestically, said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. The previous one-day record was $91.1 million, set by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in 2011.

In such rarefied territory, Disney has been cautious about overestimating the box-office force of “The Force Awakens,” J. J. Abrams’s seventh chapter in George Lucas’s space saga. Based on the early response, many predict a weekend total closer to $250 million for the film — far above “Jurassic World.”

Disney’s biggest worry has been that moviegoers will be daunted by sold-out shows and long lines. More than $100 million in advance tickets (also a record) were sold before the opening of “The Force Awakens,” many of those going toward Thursday and Friday shows. Saturday will depend more on walk-up business. Mr. Hollis said exhibitors were continually adding more screenings to satisfy demand.

Internationally, the film, which cost about $200 million to make, has already earned an estimated total of $72.7 million since opening in a handful of countries on Wednesday. “The Force Awakens” is simultaneously opening around the world nearly everywhere but China, where it is scheduled to debut in January. “The Force Awakens” had the biggest single day ever for a film in Britain, earning an estimated $14.4 million on Thursday.

While “Star Wars” helped create the concept of the summer blockbuster, “The Force Awakens” is appearing in the holiday season, in which the previous top opening was the $84.6 million debut of 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” By Disney’s estimates, “The Force Awakens” — the widest December opening ever, with 4,134 theaters — blew past that number by Friday afternoon.

Imax and 3-D screenings are helping propel the record gross. Disney said that 47 percent of the Thursday 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 saga.

Positive reviews for “The Force Awakens,” which is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi,” have added to the fervor. Critics have hailed it as a fan-friendly return to form for the series.

Such a positive reaction may attract the kind of repeat viewings that made “Avatar” and “Titanic,” both from the filmmaker James Cameron, 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”) will not be clear for weeks.

But so far, “The Force Awakens” is attracting the interest of seemingly everyone. President Obama began a year-end news conference on Friday noting, “Clearly, this is not the most important event that’s taking place in the White House today.” Soon to begin was a screening of the film for families who had lost a relative to combat or service-related injuries.



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