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'Force Awakens': $100M in presales and rave reviews

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is about to redefine what it means to be a Hollywood blockbuster. Though Disney won't comment on pre-sales, as of Wednesday morning the film has sold more than $100 million worth of tickets for the U.S. box office. That's more than four times the prior record-holder, "The Dark Knight Rises," which sold $25 million in advance ticket sales three years ago.

(And the ticket sales are continuing: Fandango says "The Force Awakens" is responsible for 91 percent of all its sales Wednesday.)

Perhaps just as important, critical acclaim is the highest for any film since "Avatar" in 2009. That film, which went on to be the biggest movie of all time, grossing $2.8 billion worldwide, drew an 84 percent score from the reviews tracked by Rotten Tomatoes. Today the reviews of "The Force Awakens" are out, and of the 157 reviews counted, the movie has drawn a remarkable 96 percent rating from critics.

That means despite sky-high expectations, critics are loving the movie. In fact, they're loving it more than the first three films. The debut film in 1977 drew a 94 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, as did "The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980, while "Return of the Jedi" in 1983 got just an 80 percent rating from critics.

Cowen analyst Doug Creutz is already declaring victory for Disney, saying that the film will set up the studio for future "Star Wars" films in the works, saying that the franchise will "re-establish its primacy in the hearts and minds of audiences."

"No matter how much the film does this weekend, we think the strong critical reviews have more significant implications for the long-term health of the franchise," Creutz wrote.

With these rave reviews, unprecedented advance sales, and an obsessive fan base, there's little doubt the film will set opening-weekend records for December — the previous record was set by "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" with $85 million in 2012. The question is whether the film can beat the all-time record set by "Jurassic World" this past June with $209 million. The deck is stacked against any holiday debut to meet or top that number, as so many people are traveling or doing last-minute shopping the weekend before Christmas. Plus, unlike summer movies, which benefit from having kids out of school and free to attend early matinees on Friday, the majority of kids will be wrapping up classes and taking exams.

Will the film be the biggest movie of all time? The opening weekend performance is far less important than how well it holds up in the following two weeks, when families are out of school and on vacation. It's worth noting that the biggest movie of all time, "Avatar," grossed less than $80 million in its opening weekend. "Force Awakens" has sold $20 million more than that — in advance.