LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The new Star Wars film has become the fastest movie to pass the US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) mark in global box office sales in a record time, Disney said on Sunday (Dec 27), as fans of the space epic pack cinemas around the world.
Twelve days after it first hit screens, The Force Awakens has posted an estimated US$545 million in ticket sales in North America and US$546 million internationally, a statement said.
The previous record was held by Jurassic World, which took 13 days to reach the milestone.
The highly anticipated seventh installment of the blockbuster saga has received mostly glowing reviews, and is being credited with breathing new life into the juggernaut Hollywood franchise launched by creator George Lucas in 1977.
In North America, Disney said The Force Awakens is already the second biggest grossing movie of 2015 and the number five of all time, posting record Christmas Day box office sales of US$49.3 million.
Over the three-day Christmas holiday weekend, it topped the North American box office, snapping up US$153.5 million in estimated ticket sales, which analysts at the Rentrak research company said was the biggest second weekend of all time.
That bests Jurassic World, which garnered US$106.6 million in its second weekend back in June, it said.
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 – 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.
International results exclude China, where the film premiered on Sunday but will only open to the public on Jan 9, according to Disney.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens posted an estimated US$133.3 million in its second weekend of overseas release from all territories worldwide except China, representing approximately 75 per cent of the international marketplace,” it said.
Mr Jeff Bock, of industry tracker Exhibitor Relations, said The Force Awakens is likely to dethrone James Cameron’s Avatar as the top-grossing film of all time in North America.
But whether it will surpass that movie’s US$2.8 billion global box office sales record will depend on China, he added.
“Two billion is very doable, but US$2.8 billion is a different beast entirely,” Mr Bock told AFP by e-mail.
“As the number two film market in the world, that record will most certainly depend on how The Force Awakens performs there.”
Disney highlighted the performance of The Force Awakens in a number of other overseas markets, including the United Kingdom, where it said estimated cumulative ticket sales have so far reached US$97.2 million in 10 days.
Australia was the stand-out in the Asia-Pacific region, it said, with the film earning an estimated US$35.7 million to date, making it the number two Disney release of all time in the country, just behind The Avengers.
The skyrocketing success of the latest Star Wars has stoked US film industry hopes that struggling cinemas can thrive in the face of a growing shift to online video streaming.
Box office revenues were down five per cent to US$10.4 billion last year while increasing barely one per cent globally, according to statistics from the Motion Picture Association of America.
But analysts say powerhouse attractions such as The Force Awakens – coupled with upgraded cinema features such as immersive sound, improved sight lines, and even dinner and drinks – can help win back straying movie buffs.