'Star Wars' sales surge toward opening weekend record

Fri Dec 18, 2015 5:49pm EST
 
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hurtled into record books on Friday with U.S. and Canadian ticket sales speeding toward $100 million, giving the long-awaited movie a shot at the biggest opening weekend of all time.

Walt Disney Co said the movie appeared headed toward a weekend domestic total of more than $200 million with the possibility of eclipsing the $208.8 million record set by dinosaur film "Jurassic World" in June.

Fans flocked to theaters Thursday evening, many dressed as evil Stormtroopers or lightsaber-wielding Jedi as the movie took in $57 million at domestic theaters. That surpassed the previous opening-day record of $43.5 million for the final "Harry Potter" movie in 2011.

Interest extended to international markets, where the movie brought in $72.7 million in 44 countries.

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

The new "Star Wars" film is the seventh installment in the series created by George Lucas in 1977. Disney bought "Star Wars" producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 and spent more than $200 million to produce "Force Awakens."

The company's shares dropped 3.8 percent on Friday, however, after BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield cut his rating on Disney to "sell" from "neutral." Greenfield said the success of "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 $2.8 billion.   Continued...

 
Moviegoers wait before the first showing of the movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the entrance of a movie theatre in Tokyo, Japan, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato