Star Wars Episode VII The Force
Courtesy of Disney/Lucas FIlm

The Force is already setting a U.S. record with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” taking in $50 million to $55  million in opening Thursday-night shows, preliminary estimates showed.

If the estimates hold, “The Force Awakens” will easily beat the previous Thursday-night record of $43.5 million by Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in July 2011.

The U.S. showings of Disney-Lucasfilm’s “The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, began at 7 p.m.

The cast includes Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Domhnall Gleeson along with original “Star Wars” stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

In a sign of sky-high anticipation, the seventh film in the iconic science-fiction franchise had set a record by selling more than $100 million worth of advance tickets domestically as of Tuesday — raising expectations that “The Force Awakens” will do more than $200 million worth of business on its opening weekend domestically. The current record for a launch weekend was set in June by “Jurassic World” with $208.4 million.

The marketing campaign has triggered plenty of pent-up excitement for the return of Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Han Solo, plus the new characters and story line. Disney, which paid more than $4 billion for Lucasfilm in 2009, had been downplaying expectations, but rival studios and industry analysts believe that “The Force Awakens” will open to $210 million or more.

“The Force Awakens” is set 30 years after the events of 1983’s “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” The film will be in a total of 4,134 North American locations on Friday — a record for a December opening.

“The Force Awakens” also debuted in a dozen international markets on Wednesday with a total of $14.1 million at the international box office.

The film, which carries a production cost of at least $200 million, opened in 32 additional foreign markets Thursday will open in most other markets Friday. It could eclipse the international opening weekend record of $316.1 million, set again by “Jurassic World.”


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