‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Has Second-Biggest Opening Ever

LOS ANGELES — The eighth chapter in the “Star Wars” movie series, “The Last Jedi,” made the jump to box office hyperspace over the weekend, selling $450 million in tickets worldwide and affirming Disney’s strategy for rebooting the 40-year-old franchise for a new generation of fans.

Benefiting from stellar reviews and wall-to-wall marketing, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” collected an estimated $220 million in North America theaters — some 4,232, some of which offered screenings around the clock. The domestic opening total was the second-highest on record, even after adjusting for inflation, falling just 11 percent short of the $248 million in initial ticket sales for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015.

“Star Wars” has long been in a league of its own, and “The Last Jedi,” directed by the relative newcomer Rian Johnson, was always expected to arrive as a blockbuster. The question was how big of one.

“The Force Awakens” had benefited from unique circumstances. Pent-up demand was off the charts: It was the first “Star Wars” movie in 32 years with performances by fan favorites like Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). “The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, a star in his own right, was also the first “Star Wars” movie pushed through Walt Disney Company’s vaunted marketing system. (Disney bought Lucasfilm, the “Star Wars” studio, in 2012.)

As a result, analysts expected “The Last Jedi” to generate roughly $200 million in opening-weekend ticket sales in the United States and Canada, or about 20 percent less than its predecessor.

“We came in thinking that anything close to 200 was going to be an absolute win,” Dave Hollis, Disney’s president of theatrical distribution, said by phone on Sunday. “The result we got is a reflection on Rian Johnson, who delivered a satisfying fan experience. Word of mouth has been enormous.”

“The Last Jedi,” which cost roughly $350 million to make and market, arrived to better-than-expected turnout even as moviegoers avoided higher-priced 3-D screenings — an ongoing trend in the movie business, especially for films that draw large family audiences. (The glasses don’t fit little faces.) The 3-D format accounted for 30 percent of ticket sales for “The Last Jedi,” according to Disney, down from 47 percent for “The Force Awakens.”

Even so, theater owners were ecstatic.

“That word actually doesn’t do it justice,” said Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment, which played “The Last Jedi” in both 3-D and 2-D. “This shows that new ‘Star Wars’ characters are connecting with a new generation of fans. It shows that, when there is a true event movie, people want to see it on the biggest screen possible.”

Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theater Owners, echoed those thoughts and noted that “The Last Jedi” also benefited from improved technology in theatrical distribution, including digital presales. “It shows the flexibility of the modern digital multiplex, able to add new show times at the last minute to meet that demand,” he said.

“The Last Jedi” brought back Ms. Fisher — now playing General Leia in one of her final roles — and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) but largely focused on newer characters that include the rebel fighter Rey, played by Daisy Ridley; the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver); and the brash pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Men made up 58 percent of the opening-weekend audience, Disney said, on par with “The Force Awakens.” The new film drew a larger number of children under the age of 12 and adults 17 to 25, with teenagers slightly down.

Disney blew away the competition. The No. 2 movie was the animated “Ferdinand” from 20th Century Fox — soon to become a Disney division, at least if regulators approve Disney’s acquisition of that studio. “Ferdinand,” which cost about $111 million to produce, collected about $13.3 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data.

“Coco” (Disney) was third, taking in $10 million, for a four-week domestic total of $150.8 million.