Can't work today, got a nasty case of Episode III-fever

The national premiere of Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith next week may cost employers as much as $627 million in lost productivity as millions of workers skip work and flock to theaters for the May 19 opening, says Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The latest installment in the Star Wars series opens nationwide on a Thursday, rather than a Friday -- so movie fans have more opportunity to beat the weekend crowds by playing hooky, according to the Challenger study.

"We are looking at two days of Star Wars-induced absenteeism,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a statement.

The firm expects information technology staff to be particularly vulnerable to prequel-itis. The Geek Squad, an IT services company, is even offering excuse notes on its Web site and plans to auction emergency IT services for companies left in the lurch on May 19.

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