By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The highly anticipated movie "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" collected $40 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales on its opening night on Thursday, according to estimates from distributor Walt Disney Co <DIS.N>.
The total for the ninth installment in the story of a fabled Jedi warrior in a galaxy far, far away ranked as the fifth-highest domestic opening night of all time, Disney said.
In international markets, "Rise of Skywalker" has brought in an additional $59.1 million, the company said.
The debut in the United States and Canada, the world's latest film market, came in lower than the last two "Star Wars" films. "The Force Awakens," released in 2015, hauled in $57 million on its first night in theaters, and 2017 installment "The Last Jedi" took in $45 million.
The movie directed by J.J. Abrams is billed as the final episode in a 42-year-old film saga begun by George Lucas in 1977. The latest episode stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac as a trio taking up the fight against the evil First Order.
While "Rise of Skywalker" has divided critics, Disney said fans have embraced it. Eighty-six percent of ticket buyers surveyed by website Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a positive score, Disney said.
By Sunday, the movie is expected to land among the biggest openings of all time. "Force Awakens" went on to generate $248 million in ticket sales over its first weekend, while the "Last Jedi" took in $220 million.
The record for a Thursday night opening belongs to Disney's April release, "Avengers: Endgame," which pulled in $60 million in its debut on its way to $357 million for the weekend, also a record.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)