'Star Wars' crushes Fandango ticket record before it even opens

By Frank Pallotta

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Fear not, fellow Jedi, there are plenty of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" tickets available even though sales just broke a record.

Fandango announced Thursday that pre-sale tickets for the movie have already broken the record for the most tickets sold in the site's history. The pre-release "Force Awakens" sales have exceeded the number of tickets sold by Fandango for any other movie's entire theatrical run.

Ever since "The Force Awakens" crashed ticket sites back in October, moviegoers have been concerned that seeing the Disney film on its opening weekend would almost be impossible.

Disney apparently was also concerned that those fears would keep some fans away from the opening weekend.

But according to the House of Mouse, it shouldn't be that hard to see Han, Leia, and Chewie this weekend.

"We're thrilled with the huge pre-sales for this film which speak to the excitement that fans have to see it, but even so there are millions of tickets available for this weekend and theaters are adding show times constantly to accommodate everyone who wants to see the film," said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president of theatrical distribution.

It shouldn't be too hard to find a showtime considering that the sci-fi film is opening in 4,134 theaters across the country this weekend. The first showings start at 7 p.m. ET Thursday.

The Force has already awakened to $14.1 million overseas on Wednesday. That includes $5.2 million in France and $2 million in Italy.

The film is projected to bring in $200 million to $220 million in North America for its premiere this weekend, and have a shot at the biggest U.S. opening of all time.

Wednesday, December 16 - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler take on 'Star Wars' at the box office

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be taking on history at the box office this weekend as well as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The Universal comedy "Sisters" starring the former "Saturday Night Live" cast members will have the massive task of opening on the same day as "The Force Awakens" this Friday.

"Sisters" is projected to bring in roughly $10 million for its opening weekend in the U.S., according to box office analysts. Not a bad forecast for a comedy that was budgeted at only $30 million.

But why would "Sisters" -- or any film for that matter -- go up against "The Force Awakens"?

"'Sisters' strategy to go head-to-head with 'Star Wars' is naturally questionable, but it makes sense," said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at BoxOffice.com. "For Universal, the added advantage is the 'spillover effect' because plenty of 'Force Awakens' shows will be selling out this weekend. Having an alternative new release already in the theater... could be a very smart play."

Robbins added that "Sisters" offers "the kind of light, accessible entertainment adults look for around the holidays" and can also serve as "a great 'girls' night out' option."

While "Force Awakens" has the Force, "Sisters" has two forces of comedy.

"Poehler and Fey, both individually and as a duo, represent leaders in comedy today," Robbins said. "Their fans always look forward to any projects they've worked on together."

The two comedians have even made light of their battle with the galaxy far, far away creating a "behind the scenes" video called "The Farce Awakens" and a hashtag, "#YouCanSeeThemBoth."

The comedy is also a hit with critics, holding an 80% score on review site RottenTomatoes.com.

However, it may not be the best reviewed film at the cineplexes this weekend with "The Force Awakens" -- which had its reviews hit overnight -- holding a near perfect 97% score.

"Sisters" should also get some publicity seeing that Fey and Poehler are co-hosting "SNL" this weekend.

Not only will Fey and Poehler return to Studio 8H, but they will be doing so for the show's traditional holiday show with musical guest Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Tuesday, December 15 - Why 'Star Wars' is opening in Norway and Philippines before the US

"Star Wars" is one of the most popular film franchises in American cinema, but it'll open in international markets before it does in North America.

The latest installment in the saga, "The Force Awakens," will open in France, Italy, the Philippines, and Norway on Wednesday among other overseas markets.

The international roll out will continue on Thursday with the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Australia, Russia, Brazil and other countries premiering the film.

The American public will have to wait until 7 p.m. Thursday to be reunited with Luke, Han, and Leia.

So why is the Disney film opening at the box office in the United States last?

"It seems like it doesn't make sense, but it does," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. "Disney has been teasing the audience for over a year... Why not do it with the movie as well? Let people know, hey, you can see this movie, but you'll have to wait a couple of days."

Dergarabedian also noted that international markets not being tied to a weekend opening schedule, the use of social media globally, and even piracy could play a part in why a studio schedules a film's opening internationally first.

"Often times movies were released overseas so that it wouldn't open in North America first and then be pirated overseas," Dergarabedian added. "Now it's more a marketing plan."

Other blockbuster films this year like "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and Universal's "Jurassic World" also opened first overseas.

"This is standard practice over the last couple of years... it's a momentum thing," Dergarabedian said. "By releasing the film in these other territories, the buzz starts to make its way around the world very quickly. To go all in on day one in America and then release it everywhere else really doesn't really make sense in today's world."

Dergarabedian added that global ticket sales often account for 70% of total box office for many big blockbusters.

In the U.S., "The Force Awakens" is shaping up to be a big hit for Disney with industry analysts predicting a record opening of $200 million to $220 million this weekend.

Away from the states, "The Force Awakens" looks to rally its empire of fans around the world for a big box office haul as well.

"This is a global film," Dergarabedian said. "Everybody loves 'Star Wars.'"

Disney did not immediately respond for comment on this story.

Tuesday, December 15 - 'Star Wars' blasting through ticket sales on Fandango

Online ticket site Fandango reported Tuesday that advance tickets for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has "obliterated records" on the site by "outselling all previous titles in the company's 15-year history at the same point in the Fandango sales cycle."

"After years of fevered anticipation, the biggest pre-selling movie in Fandango's history finally reaches theaters this weekend," Dave Karger, Fandango's chief correspondent, said in a statement. "The box office figures and audience reaction for this exciting, shocking, and crowd-pleasing blockbuster will be staggering."

Fandango also collected some fun data regarding the film by holding a fan survey on its site.

For example, fans are most looking forward to Daisy Ridley's Rey in terms of new characters in "The Force Awakens," and 86% say the film's guarded secrets have increased their interest in the Disney film.

Monday, December 14 - 'Star Wars' ticket sales blast off as opening looms

The Force is about to be with us.

With just four days until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" flies into theaters, ticket sales have taken off at the speed of light.

The Disney film accounts for 87% of all ticket sales on MovieTickets.com over the past 24 hours, according to data from the site.

The online ticket seller also reported that "Force Awakens" has sold more than double the number of advance tickets than Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and 20% more than Universal's "Jurassic World" at the same point in those film's sales period on the site.

This is an important figure seeing that "Force Awakens" has its targeting computer set on the biggest box office opening in U.S. history, a record that "Jurassic World" set with a $208.8 million debut in June.

Currently, analysts have "Force Awakens" projected for a $200 million to $220 million opening this weekend, but no one is really sure just how high the film will fly seeing that no one outside of the cast and crew has seen it.

That'll change on Monday.

"The Force Awakens" will hold its world premiere in Hollywood on Monday night that will include the cast, crew, celebrities and some press. Reports have street closures for the premiere bigger than that of the Academy Awards.

For those unable to make it to the event, StarWars.com will hold a live stream of the red carpet starting at 8:30 p.m ET.

While the buzz for the film has been positive, the pressure is on director J.J. Abrams to deliver a film that pleases both fans and the House of Mouse. Disney bought the production company behind "Star Wars," Lucasfilm, in 2012 for $4 billion.

"Oh, J.J. is terrified," director and friend of Abrams Steven Spielberg told 60 Minutes on Sunday. "There's a lot of pressure on J.J. to start paying Disney back for, you know, the franchise they bought from George Lucas."

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits our galaxy on December 18.

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