‘Sith’ Smashes Opening-Day Box-Office Records

Film grosses $50 million domestically in its first 24 hours.

“Judge me by my size, do you?” Jedi master Yoda once famously asked. “Size matters not.”

The tiny green Dagobah dweller may want to rethink that statement after hearing about the enormous opening day that his final “Star Wars” adventure, “Revenge of the Sith,” enjoyed on Thursday. Sizing things up, studio 20th Century Fox has estimated that the film grossed $50 million domestically in its first 24 hours, easily passing the records for best opening day and best single day.

It is also estimated that the first shows after midnight took in $16.5 million by themselves, with some 2,900 screenings sold out. Theaters across the country hung “sold out” signs in their windows Thursday as fans vied to get into midnight screenings. Those gargantuan grosses put “Sith” into hyperspace, and it quickly blew past the single-day box-office record of $44.8 million, set a year ago by the second day of the “Shrek 2″opening weekend.

The film also got its revenge on “The Matrix Reloaded,” which had held an opening-day record of $42.5 million set when it opened on a Thursday in 2003.

“This is a huge number,” Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian told Reuters. “I think the sky’s the limit right now.”

After a pair of logy prequels that had many fans and critics grumbling, the final episode in George Lucas’ second trilogy of movies has gotten mostly positive reviews for its thrilling action sequences and elegant handling of the Darth Vader creation myth. And though advance ticket orders are still reportedly coming in at a torrid pace and costumed fans continue to line up across the country, some simply couldn’t wait. News broke Thursday that a DVD-quality print of the movie had already been posted online hours before the midnight opening (see “Many ‘Star Wars’ Fans Skipping Lines, Downloading ‘Sith’ “ ).

But even with the pirated version floating in cyberspace, “Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” which had more than 2,900 midnight shows, doubled the midnight take of 2003′s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which grossed around $8 million from 2,100 screenings.

The eventual first-day take for “The Return of the King” was $34.5 million, and it grossed $124 million in its opening weekend. The previous “Star Wars” sequel, “Attack of the Clones,” grossed $30.1 million in its first day, with $6.2 million coming from midnight screenings.

With the “Attack of the Clones” box office in the past and solid reviews giving “Episode III” the strength of a thousand Wookies, George Lucas’ final “Star Wars” film will aim to mow down the next batch of records as if they were unsuspecting Jedi. Coming up is the “Reloaded” record for the biggest four-day domestic opening, which currently stands at $134.3 million. Will the Force be with “Star Wars” once again? At this point, not even Jabba the Hutt would bet against it.

Check out “Sidewalk Journey To The Dark Side: Camping Out For ‘Episode III’ “
for an inside look at what it took to see a midnight screening.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

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