Fans line up to watch "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Dec.17 in New York City.
Photograph by Noam Galai—Getty Images
By Reuters
December 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hurtled toward $125 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales on Friday and a potential record-breaking $225 million through Sunday, giving the long-awaited movie a shot at the biggest opening weekend of all time.

The projections from Disney late Friday indicated the film could eclipse the $208.8 million record set by dinosaur adventure film Jurassic World in June. Disney said theaters were adding showtimes to meet “unprecedented demand.”

Fans eager to see the first Star Wars movie in a decade came dressed as Stormtroopers or Jedi. Ticket sales Thursday night and Friday surpassed previous records set by the final Harry Potter film in 2011.

The movie has opened in 44 countries outside North America, earning $72.7 million in total through Thursday.

At the White House, 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 (DIS) bought Star Wars producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 and spent more than $200 million to produce The Force Awakens.

The company’s shares dropped 3.8% on Friday, however, after BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield cut his rating on Disney to “sell” from “neutral.” Greenfield said the success of The Force Awakens would not offset the impact of subscriber losses at ESPN.

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.

Critics lavished praise on The 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% positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.

Audiences awarded an “A” rating in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, Disney said.

The 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 information over several months also boosted sales, he said.

“That worked the audience into a frenzy,” he said. “It’s just a perfect storm of Star Warsenthusiasm.”

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