`Star Wars' Shoots Past `Avatar' to Break U.S. Box Office Record

Iger: 'Star Wars' Could Get Even Bigger

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke the $760.5 million record for U.S. and Canadian ticket sales set by 2009’s “Avatar,” giving the Walt Disney Co. blockbuster bragging rights over the biggest film market in the world.

“The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in the series and the first since Disney acquired franchise creator Lucasfilm in 2012, has taken in an additional $800 million in international territories, Disney said in a statement Wednesday. The movie broke the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend after its Dec. 18 U.S. release.

The picture helped lift worldwide ticket sales to a record $38 billion in 2015, according to market researcher Rentrak Corp. While the increased revenue is good news for theater chains, the reliance on so-called tentpole movies could spell trouble in 2016 if Hollywood studios press for a larger share of ticket sales, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Benjamin Mogil said in a Jan. 3 research note.

The 20 highest-grossing films in the U.S. last year accounted for 50 percent of the total box office, up from 42 percent two years ago, Mogil said. That could lead the major studios to seek a bigger slice of the revenue from their most popular films.

The success of “The Force Awakens” prompted Cowen & Co. analyst Douglas Creutz on Tuesday to increase his fiscal 2016 earnings estimate for Disney to $5.65 a share from $5.60.

“‘The Force Awakens’ has been everything Disney could have hoped for as a ‘Star Wars’ reboot, both in terms of box-office performance and critical acclaim,” Creutz said.

Disney could lead the box office this year, FBR Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett said in a Jan. 4 note. He cited ongoing sales for “The Force Awakens” and the company’s upcoming film slate, including the June 17 release “Finding Dory,” which is a sequel to the hit “Finding Nemo,” and “Rogue One,” another “Star Wars” film due in December.

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