Box office record for new `Star Wars'

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The Independent Online
THE LATEST Star Wars epic has smashed its way to a new box office record, wiping out dinosaurs and marauding aliens as the force to be reckoned with in movie business annals.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace grossed $28.5m (pounds 17.8m) on its opening day, surpassing the $26.1m single day record set by the 1997 dinosaur epic, Lost World: Jurassic Park, according to its distributors, 20th Century Fox.

It also set a record for a Wednesday opening, beating Independence Day, the alien invasion film which took $17.4m on a Wednesday in 1996.

"It's Christmas!" said a jubilant Tom Sherak, the chairman of 20th Century Fox's domestic film group. "Star Wars is like a thoroughbred horse. You put it on the race track, you know you are going to get a great race out of it. We knew that we were going to do great; we just didn't know how great," he said.

Tens of thousands of people lined up for hours on opening day at almost 3,000 theatres across the US, many of them skipping work or school.

Despite mixed reviews from critics, die-hard fans of director George Lucas's space trilogy, dressed in character costumes, gave Phantom Menace a warm reception at midnight screenings.

The first-day figures were below some industry expectations and Phantom Menace is not expected to eclipse the worldwide box office record set by Titanic, which was released in 1997. Despite a slow start, Titanic brought in some $1.7bn worldwide.

"I don't think it is the kind of movie that will get that phenomenal repeat business. But when you are talking about something that is probably going to achieve at least $400m [in the US], that is nothing to sneeze at," said the Los Angeles Times film columnist Richard Natale.