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New 'Star Wars' smashes box-office record

LOS ANGELES, USA – Star Wars: The Force Awakens smashed the opening night record in the United States and Canada and was poised to become one of the biggest grossing movies ever, industry experts said Friday, December 18. (READ: [Star Wars] 10 things to look forward to when 'The Force Awakens')

The latest instalment of the highly anticipated space epic raked in $57 million for its opening night Thursday, easily beating the previous record – $43.5 million – held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011.

Disney gushed that combined with Friday figures, ticket sales "are pointing to a total day of $100M+ for a new industry record... and the first triple-digit-million day ever!"

The Harry Potter film holds the all-time record for opening day at $91 million but the new Star Wars – which has had rave reviews and even saw Stormtroopers "invade" the White House on Friday – is expected to also force it out of that slot.

"This represents a new record for the industry and portends a massive and potentially record-breaking opening day and weekend for the film," said Paul Dergarabedian, of box office tracker Rentrak. (‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ review: Something new, something old, something borrowed)

The Force Awakens, which has had its legions of fans frothing at the mouth ever since its mooted release, has grossed at least $130 million worldwide since it opened overseas on Wednesday, setting records in Britain, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Analysts predict that the 7th instalment of the iconic space saga, which cost Disney an estimated $200 million to produce, could score the biggest opening weekend ever and could even become the biggest film of all time.

"We appear to be headed for $200M+ through Sunday and the possibility of an all-time weekend record," Disney said.

The opening weekend record is currently held by Jurassic World, which premiered earlier this year to $208.8 million at the box office.

As far as all-time box office sales, two films by James Cameron hold the record – Avatar ($2.78 billion) and Titanic ($2.18 billion).

"The potential for The Force Awakens to ultimately break into the $2 billion club worldwide is certainly in the realm of possibility," Dergarabedian said.

'Join $2 billion club'

Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said: "As far as breaking records go, it’s the strongest candidate we've seen in a long, long time.

"It might join the $2 billion club worldwide, and maybe, just maybe, be the highest grossing film of all-time." (WATCH: 'Force Awakens' cast sings epic a cappella 'Star Wars' medley)

Disney, which bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from its creator George Lucas for $4 billion in 2012, has built up the hype around The Force Awakens, rolling out a well-orchestrated marketing campaign that has left fans wanting more. 

Early reviews of the movie have given it a big thumbs-up and three more instalments are due in the coming years.

The Force Awakens picks up the intergalactic story of good versus evil 30 years on from "The Return of the Jedi," the finale of the original trilogy.

The trio of heroes who appeared in the first of the blockbusters in 1977 – smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the rebel alliance, and her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – are all back and played by the actors that Star Wars first made famous.

The film is being screened in 4,134 theaters in North America, a record for a December opening.

White House joins hoopla

Even the White House was getting into the Star Wars hoopla.

A gaggle of Stormtroopers and the droid R2-D2 were spotted in the West Wing on Friday – there was a screening of Star Wars for people who lost family in the Iraq war.

Giving an end-of-year press conference, President Barack Obama revealed he too was swept up by the mania.

"Clearly, this is not the most important thing that's taking place in the White House today," he joked.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also appeared unannounced at the lectern of the briefing room, flanked by Stormtroopers. – Jocelyne Zablit, AFP/Rappler.com