'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opening blasts away box office records

Latest film in popular franchise grosses an estimated $238 million in the US and Canada, the biggest opening weekend ever.

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"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" had the biggest opening weekend for a movie ever.

Lucasfilm/Screenshot by CNET

The Force is definitely strong with Disney's new Star Wars movie.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" grossed an estimated $238 million for the studio in the US and Canada through Sunday, the biggest opening weekend for a film ever, reports Box Office Mojo. The film, the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas in 1977, surpassed the prior record for an opening weekend of $208 million set in June by "Jurassic World."

The J.J. Abrams-directed film took in an estimated $517 million at box offices around the world, second only to the international opening weekend record also set earlier this year by "Jurassic World" at $525.5 million (around AU$721.7 million or £364.6 million). However, "The Force Awakens" total does not include sales in China, where the movie won't open until January 9.

Watch this: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' spoiler-free review

The opening weekend numbers are a vote of confidence for Disney, which purchased the Star Wars franchise from Lucas for $4.1 billion in 2012. The movie studio plans to release four more movies over the next four years, generating more than $25 billion in revenue from theme parks, toys and video games, analysts predict.

The latest film, which some analysts expect to gross more than $2 billion, stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Lauding the nostalgic throwbacks to the original series, audiences gave the new release an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. It also received an A+ grade among women as well as A+ scores with audiences under 18 and under 25.

The movie's impressive opening also shattered the opening weekend record for movies released in December, when audiences are more focused on holiday shopping and travel. The previous record holder for a December opening was "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which took in $85 million in 2012.

Fans, who often attend showings as their favorite Star Wars character, bought up tickets at a phenomenal rate, giving the movie a record-breaking $57 million from Thursday night's previews. It also captured records for the highest single-day sales of $120.5 million, the first film to gross more than $100 million in one day and blowing away the previous record of $43.5 million set by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" in July 2011.