Latest Star Wars film poised to beat opening weekend record

Moviegoers, eager to see the first Star Wars movie in a decade, cheering and waving light sabers before the first screening of The Force Awakens at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on Thursday.
Moviegoers, eager to see the first Star Wars movie in a decade, cheering and waving light sabers before the first screening of The Force Awakens at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • Star Wars: The Force Awakens hurtled towards US$125 million (S$177 million) in the United States and Canadian ticket sales on Friday and a potential record-breaking US$225 million through today, giving the long-awaited movie a shot at the biggest opening weekend of all time.

The projections from Walt Disney late on Friday indicated the film could eclipse the US$208.8 million record set by dinosaur adventure film Jurassic World in June.

Disney said theatres were adding showtimes to meet "unprecedented demand". Fans, eager to see the first Star Wars movie in a decade, came dressed as Stormtroopers or Jedi. Ticket sales on Thursday night and Friday surpassed previous records set by the final Harry Potter film in 2011. The movie has opened in 44 countries outside North America, earning US$72.7 million in total through Thursday.

At the White House, R2-D2 and two Stormtroopers surprised reporters with a quick appearance in the briefing room. First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a screening for children who lost family members to war.

The new Star Wars film is the seventh instalment in the series created by George Lucas in 1977. Disney bought Star Wars producer Lucasfilm for US$4 billion in 2012 and spent more than US$200 million to produce The Force Awakens. The company's shares dropped 3.8 per cent on Friday, however, after BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield cut his rating on Disney to "sell" from "neutral". He said the success of The Force Awakens would not offset the impact of subscriber losses at ESPN.

Nomura Securities analyst Anthony DiClemente, who rates Disney a "buy", said he was more confident after seeing the movie that it could become the top-grossing film of all time. The record is held by Avatar with US$2.8 billion.

Critics lavished praise on The Force Awakens, which features newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, alongside original stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. The movie scored a 95 per cent positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.

Audiences awarded an "A" rating in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, Disney said. The strong reviews and a decades-long affection for the Star Wars franchise are driving interest, said Mr Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak.

Entertainment site Reddit has started to ban users who deliberately leak the plot of the film, as reports surfaced of a 20-year-old man beaten up by costumed Star Wars fans after he yelled out a major spoiler outside a theatre in the US.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Latest Star Wars film poised to beat opening weekend record'. Print Edition | Subscribe