LOS ANGELES • It is an out-of-this-world performance for the eighth chapter in the Star Wars movie series. Over the weekend, The Last Jedi made the jump to box office hyperspace, selling US$450 million (S$610 million) in tickets worldwide and affirming Disney's strategy for rebooting the 40-year-old franchise for a new generation of fans.
Benefiting from stellar reviews and wall-to-wall marketing, Star Wars: The Last Jedi collected an estimated US$220 million in North America theatres - 4,232 of them, some of which offered screenings around the clock.
The domestic opening total was the second-highest on record, even after adjusting for inflation, falling 11 per cent short of the US$248 million in initial ticket sales for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.
Star Wars has long been in a league of its own and The Last Jedi, directed by relative newcomer Rian Johnson, was always expected to arrive as a blockbuster.
The question was how big of one.
The Force Awakens benefited from unique circumstances.
Pent-up demand was off the charts. It was the first Star Wars movie in 32 years with performances by fan favourites such as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia).
The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, a star in his own right, was also the first Star Wars movie pushed through Walt Disney's vaunted marketing system.
Disney bought Lucasfilm, the Star Wars studio, in 2012.
As a result, analysts expected The Last Jedi to generate roughly US$200 million in opening-weekend ticket sales in the United States and Canada, or about 20 per cent less than its predecessor.
The Last Jedi, which cost roughly US$350 million to make and market, arrived to better-than-expected turnout even as moviegoers avoided higher-priced 3D screenings - a trend in the movie business.
Disney blew away the competition. The No. 2 movie was the animated Ferdinand from Twentieth Century Fox - soon to become a Disney division, at least if regulators approve Disney's acquisition of that studio.
Ferdinand, which cost about US$111 million to produce, earned about US$13.3 million, according to comScore which compiles box-office data.
Coco, another animated release from Disney, ranked third, taking in US$10 million for a four-week domestic total of US$150.8 million.