NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Hoopla-studded "Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace" lived up to its box-office billing Wednesday, drawing a record $28.5 million for its first day of release, distributor 20th Century Fox said Thursday.
The latest 'Star Wars' installment beat the record single-day take of $26 million, set by "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," on May 25, 1997. That was a Sunday during Memorial Day weekend.
"It shows clearly 'The Force' is still with Twentieth Century Fox and [Star Wars studio] LucasFilms," Martin Grove of the Hollywood Reporter and a CNNfn regular, said.
Twentieth-Century Fox said "Phantom Menace" pulled in a staggering $9,610 per theater. The movie showed in 2,970 theaters.
"What's especially important is that it comes on a non-summer, non-holiday, non-weekend day," Grove said. "It's a plain-old Wednesday in mid-May -- that's not bad business."
The buzz about the release of the "prequel" caused a run on highly priced scalped tickets and queues of fans that formed over weeks to see the first "Star Wars" release in 16 years.
Some industry analysts have speculated the film's gross could top the record $600 million in total U.S. box office gross set by "Titanic" in 1998.
LucasFilms President Gordon Radley told CNNfn.com the record box-office draw in the first day of release is gravy' the most important result, for him, is the delight of audiences.
"Strange as it may seem, we're delighted by people's reactions more than the numbers," he said.
The record results come even though LucasFilms was stringent about selecting the theaters for release, requiring digital sound and other high-tech amenities in the cinemas. And the response from critics has been mixed.
"At the end of the day, the only critic that matters is the individual moviegoer," Radley added.