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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Star Wars gets 'record' release
Star Wars fans in Hamburg, Germany
Fans in Hamburg, Germany, dressed up for the first screening
Fans around the world are flocking to see the final Star Wars film in what is described as the widest simultaneous global movie release of all time.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith will be in cinemas in more than 100 countries by Friday, according to industry publication Screen Daily.

In the US and UK, fans queued to be the first to see it at screenings at one minute past midnight on Thursday.

It is the last instalment in George Lucas' six-film, 27-year saga.

Fan dressed as Darth Vader reading a newspaper in Lima, Peru
In Lima, Peru, Darth Vader took a break while waiting for the film
Some 18,700 prints are in cinemas around the world - including 9,700 distributed to 3,700 North American theatres.

The film, which completes the story of how Darth Vader was born, came out in a handful of countries on Wednesday with most of the world getting to see it on Thursday.

A few more countries follow on Friday and Japan and South Korea are the only major markets where fans will have to wait longer, Screen Daily said.

The film sold a record number of advance tickets in North America and several other countries, analysts have said.

More box office records are expected to fall when more ticket information comes out in the next few days.

Fans in Hollywood
Fans in Hollywood were led through the streets by another Darth Vader
"It's a forgone conclusion that $100m (54m) is going to be achieved by the end of the weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"The question is just how high can it go."

The previous five Star Wars films have made a total of $3.8bn (2bn) at box offices worldwide.

Many fans dressed as characters from the films as they queued for hours - or, in some cases, even days and weeks - for the first screenings.

Jay Greene, 26, who saw it in New York, said: "Regardless of knowing what's going to happen, you still get that excitement, and it's closure."

Christian Miller, 27, in Los Angeles, dressed as Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn for the first screening.

"It's one of my favourite things, like electricity, fire, medicine," he said. "It's proof that myth will have a role in human culture."

Star Wars fans in Sydney, Australia
Star Wars fever has also spread to Sydney, Australia
Sara Freeman, 19, dressed in a brown Jedi costume in Chicago, added: "I didn't expect to see as many girls as I did. There's not usually as many geek girls as geek boys."

A US consulting firm has calculated the film's release could cost $627m (342m) in lost productivity.

Meanwhile, DVD pirates are preparing to flood the market with illegal copies of the film, UK authorities said.

Sleeves for pirate copies of the film and discs with director George Lucas' introduction have been seized in London - but the full movie has not yet been found.

"It's telling us that the bad guys are preparing for a mass influx of this product," said the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) director of operations Jim Angell.


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