'Star Wars' reissue opens strongly in Gaul

The force is really with the French. In its first foreign territory, the “Star Wars” reissue blasted off in France Wednesday with socko results.

First-day ticket sales totaled 24,950 at 38 Paris theaters (a 27% share of that market), and 122,000 on 404 screens nationally, for an estimated gross of $900,000.

“It’s a great, great opening; the film plays to all ages,” 20th Century Fox Intl. president Jim Gianopulos told Daily Variety late Wednesday night.

Gianopulos noted that admissions in Paris usually rep one-third to one-fourth of the national tally, so the ratio for George Lucas’ epic of almost 5 to 1 indicates it’s playing extremely well across the whole country.

Speaking Wednesday, one Gallic booker said confidently, “It will be huge. We have had a lot of (advance) bookings. It will appeal especially to the younger generation who did not see it (theatrically) the first time.”

While no one should make too much of first-day grosses, the French figures go a long way toward dispelling any doubts that the “Star Wars” trilogy may not generate the same level of interest it did Stateside. Indeed, Gianopulos said research in the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia indicates very high awareness, definite interest and first-choice preference. “Most tellingly, the research shows people want to see all three films,” he said.

Fox Intl. is reissuing “Star Wars” (which grossed about $190 million overseas previously) on nearly 3,000 screens. It rolls out in most of Europe starting March 21 and in Japan in May.

“The first day (in Paris) coming after the U.S. results shows the enormous appeal of this franchise; it is a worldwide phenomenon,” he added. The intervals between “Star Wars” and the reissues of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” vary territory by territory, he said, but the gaps are weeks rather than months to keep the “integrity of the trilogy.”

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