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‘Force Awakens’ Destroys ‘Harry Potter’s’ Thursday Night Record in U.S.

The Force has topped Harry Potter as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” took in $57 million in opening Thursday-night preview shows in the U.S., setting its first box office record.

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

The first showings of the seventh Star Wars movie generated 47% of its U.S. preview grosses from 3D screenings, including $5.7 millions from 391 Imax screens, nearly doubling the previous record. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has also taken in $72.7 million from its first two days in 44 international markets.

The seventh Star Wars movie — which generated hundreds of sold-out shows and thousands of fans showing up in costume — was so powerful that it grossed about 70 times the amount taken in Thursday night by previews of Universal’s Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy “Sisters,” which drew $769,000 at 2,220 theaters.

The U.S. showings of Disney-Lucasfilm’s “The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, began at 7 p.m. following months of a massive marketing build-up by Disney. 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.

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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 Universal’s “Jurassic World” with $208.4 million, followed by 2012’s “The Avengers” at $207.4 million.

Rival studios and industry analysts have asserted in recent days that “The Force Awakens” will open to $210 million or more domestically.

Disney hasn’t offered a forecast but its marketing campaign has clearly tapped into an enormous pent-up demand for the return of Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Han Solo, plus the new characters and story line. The movie is opening three years after Disney paid  $4.06 billion for Lucasfilm.

“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, then added $58.6 million on Thursday as it opened in 32 more territories and set single-day reocords in the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Norway.

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

“The Force Awakens” is the first Star Wars movie since Fox released George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” a decade ago. “Sith” generated nearly $850 million in worldwide box office.

Anticipation is so high that speculation has already emerged that “The Force Awakens” could set a new record for worldwide gross by passing “Avatar” at $2.78 billion.

“Sisters” will likely pull in $13 million from 2,961 North American theaters this weekend as Universal offers counterprogramming for  comedy fans. Fey and Poehler portray siblings throwing a blow-out bash in their childhood home with a production cost of $30 million.

Fox is attempting to draw younger children this weekend with “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.” The fourth installment in the Alvin series should make $12 million from 3,653 locations.

Watch the cast of “Star Wars” hum the theme song at premiere:

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