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"Star Wars" sets $50 million record
A compelling story and wide midnight release help set single-day sales record.
May 23, 2005: 1:46 PM EDT
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer
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Will next week's Star Wars episode take a chunk out of business? Nah. But it'll be fun to watch. (Read the column)
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Even if you are not planning to see the movie, it will be almost impossible to miss the marketing hype. CNN's Chris Huntington reports.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - "Star Wars" fanatics must have staged a massive sick out at work and at school because the final chapter of the George Lucas epic just set a record for the biggest one-day box office ticket sales.

"Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" took in a whopping $50 million in its first 24 hours in North American theaters, shattering the previous single-day record of $44.8 million set by "Shrek 2" on its fourth day in theaters a year ago.

The previous record holder for the biggest opening day was "Spider-Man 2," with $40.4 million, according to industry tracker BoxOfficeMojo.com.

"'Revenge of the Sith' broke everything," said Brandon Gray, the president of BoxOfficeMojo.com. "It's the definition of a fan-driven movie. They rushed out as soon as they possibly could to see it."

Described as darker and more emotional than its predecessors, "Revenge of the Sith" is the sixth and final installment of the hugely lucrative "Star Wars" saga. Some 28 years after "Star Wars" first came to the big screen, viewers finally learn why the Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker became the villainous Darth Vader.

Ticket sales were helped, of course, by the fact that "Revenge of the Sith" is in nearly 3,700 theaters in the U.S. and Canada and that most theater owners began showing the film after midnight Thursday.

Hollywood executives are likely breathing a sigh of relief. The domestic box office is in one of its biggest slumps in 20 years, with grosses down significantly from a year ago despite a modest increase in the average ticket price.

Movie studios pocket roughly half of every ticket sold, with the other half going to theater owners. Factoring in production, distribution and marketing costs, many movies need to be blockbusters just to break even these days.

To jump-start the box office, some industry analysts have said in recent weeks that "Revenge of the Sith" needs to score big at the box office in order to lure the movie-going masses back to theaters just in time for summer, the biggest season of the year for Hollywood.

While Gray agreed that "Revenge of the Sith" could provide a necessary spark, he said that one film alone can't rekindle the box office.

The record-breaking tally "Star Wars" just set "is a necessary first step to getting people back into the movie-going habit," said Gray. "But it will take "Madagascar," "The Longest Yard," "Batman Begins" and other upcoming movies to keep the momentum going."

"Madagascar," about a group of Central Park Zoo animals, is the latest computer animation film from DreamWorks. "The Longest Yard" is a football comedy from Paramount Pictures, starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. "Batman Begins," from Warner Bros., is the latest in a series of films about the caped crusader, a.k.a. the wealthy, enigmatic Bruce Wayne.

Warner Bros. and CNN/Money are owned by Time Warner. (Research)

The "Star Wars" opus, produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and distributed by 20th Century Fox, a News Corp. (Research) unit, is the most successful film franchise in history. The films have grossed more than $3.4 billion worldwide. Sales of "Star War" action figures and other merchandise have come to $9 billion. Home video sales have exceeded 130 million units.

Gray said "Revenge of the Sith" could bring in $150 million in its opening weekend, easily breaking the four-day, $134 million record held by "The Matrix Reloaded."

Not even leaking "Revenge of the Sith" onto the Internet could dent its success.  Top of page

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