Noon Writethru after Friday AM updates: Early industry estimates have Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi flying to a $202M-$208M opening the third or fourth best of all-time after Force Awakens ($247.966M), Jurassic World ($208.8M) and Marvel’s The Avengers ($207.4M) and the second best December has ever seen after Force Awakens.  Today alone, including last night’s Thursday night previews of $45M, the Rian Johnson-directed Episode VIII is looking between $97M-$100M, again the second best opening day ever after Force Awakens’ $119.1M. Two years ago, Force Awakens became the fastest grossing title to $100M, not in days, but hours. Specifically it hit $100M 18 hours after its 7PM Thursday night showings at 1PM that Friday. Yes, this could possible go even higher to $210M as the weekend goes on. Where and how well is this playing? “It is going to do $200M on its opening weekend and it is working everywhere that the seats face the screens” says one exhibition czar.  Last Jedi is propped by 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and an 82% definite recommend from PostTrak audiences. On the right, fans at AMC Empire 25 in NYC celebrate last night with free light sabers prior to their preview show.

AMC

Disney said last night’s number,  the second best preview after Force Awakens’ $57M, was 55% ahead of last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($29M) and 21% behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

20th Century Fox this morning reported $350K at 2,385 locations for Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand. Those showtimes started at 5PM. Two years ago when Fox counterprogrammed against Force Awakens with the handholder family pic Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip. That movie did not hold previews. Note, it’s a marathon for any film competing against The Last Jedi in the next two weekends, it’s not a sprint. Road Chip opened to $14.2M and legged out a 6x multiple to $85.9M. Ferdinand is looking similar to Road Chip with $4.5M-$5M today and a $14M-$15M opening weekend.

Disney

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, Thursday night 9:15PM: Updated with exit polls Disney had a fantastic Thursday.

The major studio began yesterday at 4:13AM PST with the acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox, a deal valued around $66 billion, and they ended last night with a huge box office record with Star Wars: The Last Jedi estimated to post the second best Thursday preview ever with $45M-plus. These projections come to us from Deadline sources, not Disney. Last Jedi easily ranks behind Disney/Lucasfilm’s 2015 The Force Awakens which owns the best preview night of all-time with $57M. Last Jedi is bound to unseat Warner Bros.’ July 2011 finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 for second place on the preview B.O. chart. That pic earned $43.5M from its Thursday night preview with showtimes that began at midnight.

Disney

So what do fans think? ComScore/Screen Engine reports a mindblowing five-out-of-five stars for the movie and a 90% overall positive with an 82% definite recommend. Forty five percent said that the Rian Johnson-directed movie came in above their expectations while close to 40% said they’ll the movie again in the theater. Huge. Older men over 25 came out in droves at 44% followed by females over 25 (24%), men under 25 (22%), and females under 25 (10%). Today there’s only 1% K-12 out of school and 30% colleges on break, numbers which will explode to respectively 61% and 89% next Friday. Essentially, the money will continue to flood in for Last Jedi, natch. Close to a third of the audience attended with two-to-four friends with 22% watching Last Jedi with a spouse or a partner. The make-up of the audience was evenly split between frequent moviegoers (those who attend 4x ever two month) and infrequent attendees who go to the cinema once every two months. Of last night’s audience, 55% overall said that they plan to purchases The Last Jedi on DVD or Blu-ray.

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Disney will be reporting their official estimate soon this morning. There’s a faction who sources last night who believed Last Jedi crossed into the mid $50M sphere. Heading into today, most tracking services and rivals had Last Jedi opening to north of $200M over three days, but still even if it falls to $185M, that’s a fantastic number for December. Still, there isn’t any decimating bad weather on the horizon this weekend. There were storms in the Midwest and Northeast last year when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opened and even that didn’t deter business with fans shelling out $29M on that pic’s Thursday night, which repped 40% of its $71M opening day before finaling a $155M opening weekend. Force Awakens’ $57M preview accounted for close to 48% of its $119.1M opening day before filing the biggest domestic opening of all-time at $247.966MForce Awakens and Rogue One also easily ranked as the first and second best weekend openings in December.

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Last night in America, and around the world, it’s a holiday. That celebration will continue into today and throughout the weekend. Star Wars fans dressed to the nines as Rey, Kylo Ren, Stormtroppers, Boba Fett, Chewbacca, etc. Fans have a lot of questions as they enter the theater to watch director Rian Johnson’s spectacle. Who are Rey’s parents? What’s the connection between Luke Skywalker and Rey? Who is Snoke? Similar to Heath Ledger with The Dark Knight and Paul Walker with Furious 7, Last Jedi is already something special for Star Wars fans as it marks the late Carrie Fisher’s last Star Wars movie. The film is organically a catharsis for them, and that posthumous performance will definitely pull in masses and masses of people. Fisher died during the holidays a year ago on Dec. 27 with her mother Debbie Reynolds following on Dec. 28. Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd also has an expanded role in Last Jedi as one of the Rebels.

Disney

As per Star Wars tradition going back to the moment it first projected on screen in Hollywood, fans camped outside the TCL Chinese Theater. In response Red Robin stopped by to hand out free hamburgers to those waiting. Most previews started last night at 7PM, but there were fan and marathon events in 1,300-plus locations featuring an early look at The Last Jedi at 6PM. Tickets for some of those 6PM shows which reportedly include deleted footage that’s not part of the theatrical release are going for $30. In response to the demand this week, the world’s largest exhibitor AMC is adding a number of 2 AM Imax and Dolby Cinema at AMC showtimes nationwide, from their Loews Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to AMC River Park Square in Spokane, Washington. There were some theaters that ran on a 24-hour schedule from Thursday night into today including AMC Empire 25, Lincoln Square and Fresh Meadows in NYC as well as the Southpoint 17 in Durham/Raleigh, NC.

Tomorrow, The Last Jedi will be in play at 4,175+ theaters in the US/Canada. Of that 410 are IMAX screens, 640+ premium large format, 3,600+ are 3D locales, and 212 D-Box locations. We’ll have an update with Disney’s official Thursday night figure soon.

A look at the lines: