Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith wasalready starting to break records as its massive international release began onWednesday and continued into the weekend.

According to distributor Fox International, the launch ofthe film with more than 9,000 prints in 113 markets in 104 countries outsideNorth America is the widest international day-and-date release of all time.

The film opens in many markets on Thursday May 19, the sameday as in the US and Canada (where the release comes just over a week before thelong Memorial Day weekend). But in France, where the Lucasfilm production wasunveiled to the industry at a Cannes Festival screening last Sunday, the987-print release began on Wednesday. The result, Fox reported, was the biggestopening day gross ever in Paris and its suburbs and the biggest opening dayever for a US film in the whole of France.

Audience anticipation for the final installment in the StarWars series - directed by George Lucas himself and starring Ewan McGregor,Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen - is, of course, huge and early reviewsof the film, which tells the origin story of Darth Vader, have been generallyfavourable. So plenty of other records are likely to be broken as the releasecontinues this weekend.

The film opens on Thursday in territories including Germany(with 1,221 prints), the UK (996 prints), Mexico (600 prints), Australia (537prints), Spain (503 prints), Brazil (428 prints) and Russia (380 prints).Friday openings include Italy (688 prints) and China.

The only major territories in which the film is not openingthis weekend are Japan, where the release is set for Saturday, July 9, andSouth Korea, which will get the film on May 26.

Late on Wednesday (US time), Fox reported that Revenge ofthe Sith had already achieved record advance ticket sales in Mexico andAustralia. And the film will certainly achieve a bigger international openinggross than its immediate predecessor, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of theClones, which in May 2002 grossed a then record $67m from over 70territories during its first weekend. It went on to pass $100m internationallyon its ninth day in the marketplace.

Not surprisingly, other international releases are thin onthe ground this weekend. And several of them are in Star Wars-freemarkets.

Sony Pictures Releasing International gives Closer a200-print launch in Japan, its last major territory, on May 21. The film'stotal international gross to date is $77.1m.

Universal's The Interpreter, distributed by UIP,opens in Japan on the same day. Its international total up to May 15 is $55.4m.

UIP also opened DreamWorks' Anchorman: The Legend of RonBurgundy in France on May 18.

Warner Bros International opens Miss Congeniality 2 (whose international total to date stands at $50.1m) in Japan this weekend and House of Wax in Korea.

Buena Vista International, meanwhile, has a handful of newreleases. It opens A Lot Like Love in Korea on May 20; Miramaxacquisition Dear Frankie in Mexico (May 20) and Argentina (May 19); IcePrincess in Mexico (May 20); and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissouin Brazil (May 20). The latter release is the last major-territory opening for TheLife Aquatic, whose international total to May 17 stood at $10.2m.