LOS ANGELES – The last of the "Star Wars" movies has done what no movie in history has ever accomplished — sold $50 million worth of tickets in a single day.
"Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" (search) grossed $50,013,859 from showings at 3,661 theaters and more than 9,000 screens around the country on Thursday, including special midnight shows, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. That beat the one-day record set in May 2004 by "Shrek 2," which sold $44.8 million on a single Saturday — its fourth day in theaters.
"It's staggering," said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution at Twentieth Century Fox (search). "It's probably 20 percent more than I thought we could do."
The George Lucas (search) film, which features the transformation of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into the evil Darth Vader (search), also beat the opening day record held by "Spider-Man 2," which grossed $40.4 million when it opened on a Wednesday last June.
"Fifty million is a good opening weekend, let alone a single day," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations. "This is the box office equivalent of a 100-year flood."
The news comes as a relief to Hollywood, which has seen a box office slump for 12 straight weeks.
Theater owners, studios and marketing partners had their hopes pinned on "Star Wars," to kick-start the summer movie season and they weren't disappointed.
The film debuted on 2,900 screens at midnight Thursday. The take from that one showing alone was $16.5 million, which beat the previous record of $8 million set by "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in 2003.
Thursday's take dwarfed the next highest film, and last week's box office champ, "Monster-in-Law," starring Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez. That film grossed $1.5 million on Thursday, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
It is almost assured "Star Wars" will push past the $100 million mark for its opening weekend. The record for a three-day weekend is held by the first "Spider-Man," which grossed $114.8 million in May 2002.