“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has blazed its way to the top of the box office around the world, collecting approximately US$517 million (AU$721 million) in ticket sales for its weekend debut, Disney reports.

The much-awaited installment of the Star Wars saga shattered records in Hollywood history, hauling in US$238 million (AU$332 million) in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales. It bested previous record-holder film “Jurassic World” by Universal Studios, which earned US$208.8 million (AU$290 million) in June, according to market researcher Rentrak Corp.

“The Force Awakens,” which earned US$279 million (AU$389 million) overseas, also topped the box office in Australia and Russia, among other countries. Ticket sales are expected to further surge when it opens on January 9 in China, considered to be the second-largest global market after the U.S, according to Bloomberg.

Expectations were high on Disney’s take on the film, the seventh installment in the Star Wars series. It surpassed BoxOffice.com’s prediction of US$229 million (AU$319 million) for the opening weekend.

In addition to topping the box office, “The Force Awakens” also received highly positive reviews. It gained 95 per cent rating in aggregator Rottentomatoes.com. Critics praised the film for being “packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood.” It also successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy,” according to Rottentomatoes.com.

J.J. Abrams, who directed the film, also earned the critics’ nod. “The Force is with filmmaker J.J. Abrams, who makes sure this Star Wars adventure contains thrilling action scenes, exciting special effects, and colorful characters,” Betty Jo Tucker from ReelTalk Movie Reviews said.

“J.J. Abrams has, for the most part, taken the safe road, not re-inventing the wheel, but building a solid, respectful and, at times, darn entertaining reboot,” according to Joanna Langfield of The Movie Minute.

Abrams’ choice to stay on-course the Star Wars tradition was panned by some critics. “A money grab in which wunderkind J.J. Abrams chose to go where George Lucas has gone by basically repeating plot points, even lines, from the original trilogy,” said The Patriot Ledger’s Al Alexander.

The Forces Awakens,” is set 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire in 1983’s “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” It stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who appeared in the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie. The film also features Mark Hamill, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.

The amounts cited were according to actual ticket sales for December 18 and December 19, and estimates for Sunday.

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