Wars' sales surge toward opening weekend record
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[December 19, 2015]
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
hurtled toward $120 million at the U.S. and Canadian box
office on Friday and a potential record-breaking $215
million through Sunday, giving the long-awaited movie a
shot at the biggest opening weekend of all time.
The ticket sales figures from Walt Disney Co <DIS.N> late
Friday indicated that the film could eclipse the $208.8 million
record set by dinosaur adventure film "Jurassic World" in June.
Disney said movie theaters were continuing to add screenings to
meet "unprecedented demand."
Fans flocked to theaters Thursday evening, many dressed as evil
Stormtroopers or lightsaber-wielding Jedi as the movie took in
$57 million at domestic theaters. That surpassed the previous
opening-day record of $43.5 million for the final "Harry Potter"
movie in 2011.
Interest extended to international markets, where the movie
brought in $72.7 million in 44 countries.
At the White House, a beeping R2-D2 and two Stormtroopers
surprised reporters with a quick appearance in the briefing
room. First lady Michelle Obama hosted a screening for children
of families that lost members to war.
The new "Star Wars" film is the seventh installment in the
series created by George Lucas in 1977. Disney bought "Star
Wars" producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 and spent more
than $200 million to produce "Force Awakens."
The company's shares dropped 3.8 percent on Friday, however,
after BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield cut his rating on Disney to
"sell" from "neutral." Greenfield said the success of "Force
Awakens" would not offset the impact of subscriber losses at
Nomura Securities analyst Anthony DiClemente, who rates Disney a
"buy," said he was more confident after seeing the movie that it
could become the top-grossing film of all time. The record is
held by "Avatar" with $2.8 billion.
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Critics lavished praise on "Force Awakens," which features newcomers
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac alongside original stars
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. The movie scored a 95
percent positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten
Disney said 47 percent of Thursday's domestic ticket sales came from
higher-priced 3D tickets.
Strong reviews plus a decades-long affection for the "Star Wars"
franchise are driving interest, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior
media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak. Disney's
carefully planned release of film trailers and tidbits of
information over several months also boosted ticket sales, he said.
"That worked the audience into a frenzy," he said. "It's just a
perfect storm of Star Wars enthusiasm."
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Piya
Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken, James Dalgleish
and Lisa Shumaker)
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