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ROME (Reuters) - While most of the world's moviegoers flock to see the new Star Wars film, Italian box office records are being smashed by the far less fanciful story of a public sector worker who will go to the ends of the earth to hold on to his generous benefits.
Raucous satire "Quo Vado?", starring Luca Medici as coarse everyman Checco Zalone, raked in some 7 million euros ($7.6 million) in its first day in cinemas last week, beating the previous record held by the final film in the "Harry Potter" franchise, which took 3.3 million euros on its debut in 2013.
In its opening three days, "Quo Vado" took almost as much as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has done in its first three weeks in Italy - a record-breaking 22 million euros.
It is on course to be the biggest-grossing film ever made in movie-mad Italy, breaking the previous record set in 2013 by Medici's last film, and edging closer to the country's all-time box office record held by James Cameron's "Avatar".
Its title playing on a question Saint Peter asks Jesus in a second-century religious text, the film sends up Italy's obsession with permanent work contracts, a Holy Grail that has become increasingly unattainable after years of economic stagnation.
Successive governments have struggled to slim down its public administration and shake up a job market in which some lucky workers enjoy handsome benefits and are all-but impossible to fire.
Various chaotic plot twists see Zalone variously dumped unceremoniously from a helicopter at the North Pole, talking about romance with an African tribe and squabbling over pasta and parking during his foreign travels.
Watching the film in a Rome cinema and laughing uproariously, 69 year-old retired flight attendant Franco Barigelli, described the film as "intelligent satire".
"(Medici's) films hold a mirror up to society, and you can't get offended," Barigelli said. "Things need to change and it might be too late for older people but it could give some food for thought to our grandchildren."
($1 = 0.9220 euros)
Editing by Jeremy Gaunt