The final Star Wars movie is set to cost American employers as much as $627 million (GBP330 million) in lost productivity, according to a new study.

Officials at New York consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas claim fans will skip work on Thursday (19MAY05) and Friday (20MAY05) to catch EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH - to see ANAKIN SKYWALKER become DARTH VADER.

The company's researchers calculated the loss from workplace absenteeism, assuming that attendance on the first two days of the last in the series will at least match that of the previous Star Wars movie.

More than nine million people attended STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES on the first two days of its release in 2002.

CG+C researchers estimate that over 50 per cent of those likely to attend the movie this week are full-time workers, and, based on the average daily pay of $130.60 (GBP68.70), the cost in terms of lost wages and productivity resulting from 4.8 million absences would be almost $627 million.

A spokesman for the firm says, "Of course, these estimates are probably on the conservative side, in light of the great reviews the movie is receiving.

"Absenteeism may even start on Wednesday (18MAY05) for those who want to see the first screening a midnight on May 19."

17/05/2005 21:38