Latest Star Wars franchise is second only to Jurassic World, but has not yet opened in China, the worlds second-largest movie market

Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box office records with an estimated $517 m in worldwide ticket sales up until Sunday, a staggering debut that re-established the celebrated space tale as a global phenomenon under Disney.

The first Star Wars film in a decade recorded the biggest domestic opening in Hollywoods history, collecting $238 m over the weekend in the US and Canada. It also defined records in Britain, Australia, Russia and elsewhere as fans embraced a new chapter in the galactic combat between good and evil.

Thousands joined a taunt lightsaber combat in Los Angeles, where an Australian couple married while in line for the movie. Barack Obama ended a press conference on Friday saying he needed to head to a White House screening of the movie, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shut Saturdays Democratic debate with: May the Force be with you.

I dont guess ever in the history of movies has their is becoming more hype leading up to release of a movie, told Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. This is a huge, huge win.

Star Wars fans attempt to beat world record for biggest lightsaber combat

The cinemas financial and critical success mark a victory for Disneys chief executive Bob Igers strategy of acquiring proven brands, including Pixar Animation and comic book powerhouse Marvel, to fuel Disneys entertainment empire.

Disney bought Star Wars producer Lucasfilm for$ 4bn in 2012 as part of his bet on big-budget films.

Cinema attendance in the US and Canada, the worlds largest movie market, has barely changed in a decade as online and mobile platforms explosion. Subscribers to Disneys sports powerhouse, ESPN, have shrunk, a much-noted sign of pressure on traditional media. The turnout for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an encouraging result for Disney, rival media companies and cinemas.

We have so many options for amusement, yet look at where everyone is flocking this weekend to the multiplex, told Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak. Disney has this down to a science.

Global sales finished second only to the dinosaur movie Jurassic World, which in its June opening garnered $525 m worldwide, including China, where the Star Wars film will not open for weeks. Jurassic World took $208.8 m at domestic cinemas in its first weekend.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh instalment in the epic science-fiction franchise created by George Lucas in 1977.

Filmgoers revelled in the return to the Star Wars galaxy, garmenting as Jedi or Sith, carrying lightsabers and cheering when classic characters such as Princess Leia or Chewbacca appeared on screen. Cinemas added showtimes to meet demand.

Disney plans four Star Wars movies up to 2019, plus major expansions at its US theme parks to incorporate the droids, spaceships and otherworldly beasts of the universe Lucas invented. Toys, clothing, home accessories and video games already pervade stores ahead of Christmas.

Reuters analysis last week calculated that Disney might be on track to triple its Lucasfilm investment and earn an average of $669 m from the franchise in each of the next six years.

Nostalgia, plus a carefully planned, months-long release of movie trailers and character profiles boosted interest. Disney, which spent more than $200 m to induce the most recent movie, also created intrigue by keeping the plot largely secret.

Critic lauded the movies throwback feeling, dosages of humor and the performances of newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Audiences awarded an A grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore.

Disney took action to attract more women and girls to the series, including casting Ridley as the superstar and running commercials during proves such as Maintaining Up with the Kardashians. Forty-two percent of the weekends domestic audience was female, Disney said.

The movie could become the highest-grossing movie of all time, box office analysts told. Avatar holds that title with $2.8 bn in global sales.

The wild card is China, the worlds second-largest movie market, where the movie opens on 9 January. The last Star Wars movie in 2005 collected only$ 9m there.

Disney made an effort to build buzz, placing 500 miniature Stormtroopers at the Great Wall and striking a deal to stream the six earlier Star Wars films through video service Tencent.

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