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‘Star Wars’ tops DiCaprio in ‘Revenant’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens stayed on top of the North American box office for the fourth straight weekend, beating out Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant and becoming the third-largest grossing movie in the world ever.

According to studio estimates on Sunday, the adventures of Rey, Finn and stalwarts from the previous Star Wars films raked in $US41.6 million ($A59.7 million in the US and Canada and $US104.3 million overseas, led by a record-breaking opening in China.

Disney distribution Executive Vice President Dave Hollis says the expected $US53 million debut weekend in China was “spectacular” given the film is the first Star Wars episode many Chinese people have ever seen.

“We’re very encouraged,” he said.

In the US and Canada, it is the biggest movie ever and the first to pass $US800 million with $US812 million so far.

Its global total now stands at $US1.73 billion, according to The Walt Disney Co, passing Jurassic World, with $US1.67 billion.

The film now has in its sights No.2 Titanic, with its $US2.2 billion box office haul in 1997-98, and No.1 Avatar, from 2009-2010 at $US2.8 billion.

Its place as the all-time biggest movie is by no means assured, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.

Avatar had a smaller opening but kept ringing cash registers through awards season, something that won’t be clear for Star Wars until the Golden Globes on Sunday night and Oscar nominations on Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily predestined,” Dergarabedian said.

“I think $US2 billion is in the cards but if any movie has that potential (to be No.1), it would certainly be The Force Awakens.

The Revenant, a gritty R-rated movie directed by Alejandro Inarritu about an 1820s frontiersman who gets mauled by a bear, blasted through expectations of about $US25 million in its first weekend of wide release with a $US38 million haul, following limited showings in New York and Los Angeles in December.

Already buzzing for Oscars in categories like best director and best actor, 20th Century Fox’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson said The Revenant surprisingly brought in mainstream audiences despite its at-times graphic material.

Of the Top 10 films in the US on the weekend, only Focus Features’ The Forest was in theatres for the first time, coming in fourth at $US13.1 million.

Focus president of distribution Jim Orr said the horror film topped expectations.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak, with the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday in brackets:

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, $US41.6 million ($US104.3 million)

2. The Revenant, $US38 million ($US20.2 million)

3. Daddy’s Home, $US15 million ($US10.2 million)

4. The Forest, $US13.1 million ($US450,000)

5. Sisters, $US7.2 million ($US3.4 million)

6. The Hateful Eight, $US6.4 million ($US12 million)

7. The Big Short, $US6.3 million ($US4.6 million)

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, $US5.5 million ($US5.8 million)

9. Joy, $US4.5 million ($US7.5 million)

10. Concussion, $US3.1 million.

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