Star WarsEpisode III - Revenge of the Sith has recorded 500,000 admissions for a grossof $6.3m (Y700m) since Saturday'sopening - beating its predecessors in the series.

On July 10 and11, the film - making its final debut in a major territory - earned $20m (Y2.22bn) on 1.57 million admissions.

Distributor20th Century Fox is now predicting that the film will finish with a $117m (Y13bn) gross on 10 million admissions, again the highest numbers everfor the series.

The currentrecord holder is Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which grossed$114.4m(Y12.7bn).

Stars Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmidpaid a surprise visit to Nichigeki 1 theatre in downtown Tokyo on opening day.

McDiarmid, who plays Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in the film, told the 950 assembledfans that "We have come to invite you to the dark side."

Fans, some ofwhom had spent all night waiting in line, waved lightsabers in response andshouted "arigato" (thanks).

Fox ought to bethanking Diarmid and his co-stars as well - the company now has a chance tobeat rival UIP, which is distributing War of the Worlds, for the summerbox-office championship.

On its firstfive days on release, starting Wednesday, June 29, War of the Worlds grossed $14,811,816(Y1,644,111,600) on 1,306,314 admissions.