'Revenge of the Sith' Shatters Box-Office Records

The sixth and final installment of George Lucas' epic saga, Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, has shattered opening weekend box-office records, earning a record $158 million in its first four days.

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The growth of very small media has yet to eliminate the income of a very big medium. The latest movies in the "Star Wars" series earned a record $158 million in North America over its four-day weekend opening. Jason Lopez reports from San Francisco.

JASON LOPEZ reporting:

Last Wednesday afternoon, a line of moviegoers formed in front of the UA Metro Theater on Union Street in San Francisco...

(Soundbite of voices)

LOPEZ: ...for the midnight opening of the latest, and perhaps last, "Star Wars" episode. As evening fell, "Star Wars" fans, some armed with light sabers, braved the rain for their chance to be among the first to see the movie.

Unidentified Woman #1: Well, that's the whole point of seeing it before everyone else sees it, because then as soon as someone else sees it, they're going to tell you, `Oh, and this happened, this happened.' They're going to ruin it for you.

LOPEZ: But many midnight moviegoers would not ruin the plot for their co-workers the next day, either calling in sick, or catching a movie.

Unidentified Man #1: I've been hacking and coughing all day at my job, so hopefully I may, you know, have some sort of illness. I'm thinking food poisoning, but who knows?

LOPEZ: To put the "Star Wars" phenomenon in perspective, the employment research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says employers may end up losing $627 million in productivity because of absent workers last Thursday and Friday. That's more than "Revenge of the Sith" is expected to make, but it could be close, considering the picture has put up record-breaking domestic figures.

Gabriel Snyder covers box office for the industry newspaper, Variety. He points out the total earnings for "Revenge of the Sith" are more than $300 million, because it opened worldwide.

Mr. GABRIEL SNYDER (Variety): That number is far, far, far and above the $250 million or so that the last "Lord of the Rings" made when it opened up in a whole bunch of countries.

LOPEZ: Still, Snyder notes "Star Wars" has a loyal audience, an audience that remembers a long time ago when George Lucas released the original "Star Wars" in 1977.

Mr. SNYDER: This franchise lived for almost 20 years without a single film coming out, and so the lowest demographic score for "Star Wars" was the teens, because they, you know, are relatively late to this game.

LOPEZ: Exit polling from Fox Studios indicates that slightly more than half the weekend audience was older than 25. Emerging from San Francisco theaters on Sunday afternoon, lots of older fans who didn't wait the proverbial week or two to avoid the crowds.

Unidentified Woman #2: Not a lot of teen-agers coming out. It's more of us, mid-30-something.

Unidentified Man #2: We've been kind of following this every time an episode comes out, and this is the final one, so we wanted to make sure we came and saw it.

LOPEZ: For some fans, "Revenge of the Sith" represents the end of an era. But creator George Lucas says the next realm for the "Star Wars" phenomenon is television.

For NPR News, I'm Jason Lopez in San Francisco.

(Soundbite of music from "Star Wars" film)

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