Big Hit: $140 Million for ‘New Moon’
The Twilight Saga: New Moon notched the third-largest debut on record this weekend with $140.7 million, according to studio estimates from Nielsen EDI.
The latest chapter of the vampire saga, which has made pinup stars of actors Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, is behind only The Dark Knight's $158.4 million last year and Spider-Man 3's $151.1 million in 2007.
From its opening midnight Thursday, Moon was headed for the record books. The film did $26.3 million in midnight screenings, shattering the record of $18.5 million held by Dark Knight.
By midnight Friday, New Moon had broken the single-day record with $72.7 million, again eclipsing Dark Knight's $67.2 million. It earned an additional $118.1 million overseas.
Though the two Twilight films have never wowed critics - just 29% of reviewers recommended New Moon, according to RottenTomatoes.com - the franchise has been critic-proof, particularly among women, who made up 80% of the weekend audience.
New Moon, 2008's Twilight and the four-book series by Stephenie Meyer on which they're based have a rare female fan base ranging from preteens to grandmothers. "There's something wholesome in these movies that is getting mothers to take their daughters with them," says Richie Fay, distribution chief of Summit Entertainment, which released New Moon. "Or maybe it's the other way around."
And teen boys, who have been turning out for werewolves and vampires since Abbott met Costello, made up most of the other moviegoers, Fay says.
"We got more young males than we did on Twilight. You have to think having werewolves in there was a draw."
The next film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, arrives in theaters June 20. Fay says that though there is no agreement yet to produce the fourth adaptation, Breaking Dawn, "we're working very closely with Meyer" on closing the deal.
The only question now is how high Moon rises. Twilight earned $193 million in North America, a mark New Moon should shatter even with the typical drop-offs weekend to weekend.
The monsters gave the box office a needed boost this weekend. Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side exceeded projections with a second-place debut of $34.5 million. The cataclysmic thriller 2012 was third with $26.5 million, which lifts its 10-day total to $108.2 million.
Ticket sales soared 98% over last week and 59% over the same weekend last year.
Final figures are due Monday.