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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Heading for Massive $170 Million-Plus Opening

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will rack up at least $170 million over its domestic opening weekend when it hits theaters next December, early tracking indicates.

Rival executives privately predict that the film will hit or exceed $200 million and is poised to set a new record for a domestic debut. They note, however, that with a film like “The Force Awakens,” that has nearly universal awareness attached to it, it can be difficult to accurately gauge where the final box office numbers will land.

With a month to go, “The Force Awakens” is already shattering records. The seventh film in the massively popular franchise has generated more than $50 million in advance ticket sales.

Even if an opening weekend record remains elusive, “The Force Awakens” should have no trouble doubling the current high-water mark for a December opening held by 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” at $84.6 million — giving it roughly $170 million. That would be the fifth-largest opening weekend in history, but $40 million behind “Jurassic World” for the best opening of all time at $208.8 million.

At this point, fan interest appears to be high enough that many in the industry would be shocked if “The Force Awakens” fails to join “Jurassic World” and 2012’s “The Avengers,” which brought in $207.4 million, as the only titles to open above $200 million. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened in May with $191.3 million and 2013’s “Iron Man 3” launched with $174.1 million.

It’s certainly shaping up to be what is referred to by movie studios as a “four quadrant” hit — meaning a picture that appeals to all demographic groups. Tracking suggests that interest in the film is nearly evenly split between men and women. It also appears to be a popular choice with both adults and children.

The more conservative forecasters note that no film has ever opened to more than $100 million in December and the Christmas movie-going season contains multiple distractions, such as shopping and traveling. Although the two most successful films of all time — “Avatar” and “Titanic” — opened in December, neither crossed $100 million during its opening weekend.

“Avatar” opened to a respectable $77 million six years ago, but then remained enormously popular for months and wound up with a record $750 million in the U.S. — along with over $2 billion from international markets.

Insiders note that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens'” second week in theaters will provide seven consecutive days during which time a large amount of the population will be free to head to the movies.

Studios have avoided going up against “The Force Awakens” with other tentpole releases on Christmas, although the marketplace will have plenty of high profile wide releases such as Jennifer Lawrence’s “Joy” from Fox, Will Smith’s “Concussion” from Sony, Warner Bros.’ “Point Break” and the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy “Daddy’s Home” from Paramount.

“The Force Awakens” is already the biggest advance seller in the history of online ticketing companies Fandango and MovieTickets.com. Most Imax screenings have sold out, but outside of those premium formats, there are tickets remaining to many shows on opening weekend.

The film kicks off a trilogy of pictures and brings back Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher from the first three “Star Wars” movies, along with new stars Adam Driver, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. J.J. Abrams directs the film.

There are also planned spinoffs and origin stories expected to debut in the coming years, as Disney and Lucasfilm hope to embrace the Marvel model of building a cinematic universe.

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