Weekend Report New Moon Opens with Deafening Howl

by Brandon Gray

The Twilight Saga: New Moon dawned with a hot-blooded estimated $140.7 million on approximately 8,500 screens at 4,024 sites over the weekend, charting as the third highest-grossing opening behind only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3 and the biggest of 2009. With the advent of New Moon, not to mention an excellent showing by The Blind Side, overall business surged 56 percent over the same weekend last year when Twilight and Bolt debuted and was the second-highest seen in history, behind the weekend that The Dark Knight opened.

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On its opening day, New Moon shattered the records for opening day ($72.7 million) and midnight showings ($26.3 million), thanks to the rush of its fervent fan base. Just like its predecessor, Twilight, the supernatural romance fell over 40 percent Friday-to-Saturday and the Friday accounted for more than half of the weekend business. On each day, New Moon essentially doubled the grosses of Twilight, which is an incredible feat for a sequel, especially when the first movie was already extremely popular. Twilight’s first weekend came to $69.6 million, and, while it fell precipitously the following weekend, it held up well in its later weeks, ultimately grossing $192.8 million to become the biggest vampire movie on record (eclipsing Interview with the Vampire in attendance) as well as the top teen romance.

New Moon distributor Summit Entertainment’s exit polling indicated that 80 percent of the audience was female and 50 percent was under 21 years old, which means the sequel skewed more female and younger than the first Twilight. The sequel’s success speaks to how pleased with the first movie moviegoers were, and the marketing upped the ante with the promotion of a new werewolf love interest in addition to the vampire one as well as a grander canvas for the story. The third movie in the franchise, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, is scheduled for June 30 of next year, or just seven months from now.

Opening in a distant second place, The Blind Side may not look all that special on first glance, but it actually set the record for highest-grossing sports drama opening, shooting past Coach Carter. The football-themed drama scored an estimated $34.5 million on around 4,100 screens at 3,110 sites, which was also a personal best for star Sandra Bullock (edging out The Proposal). The picture was actually the first major sports movie of the year as Hollywood has given the reliable sub-genre short-shrift lately (and in the near future), but it was sold on its inspirational and heartfelt storyline as much as its football. Though not another entry in Ms. Bullock’s romantic comedy wheelhouse, the marketing nonetheless played on her plucky, relatable star persona. Audiences in pollster CinemaScore’s tracking gave the picture an “A+” (New Moon received an “A-“), and, this year, Up is the only other movie to achieve such a high grade. CinemaScore’s demographic survey suggested that audience was 59 percent female and 75 percent 25 years of age and older.

Planet 51 landed with an estimated $12.6 million on around 3,400 screens at 3,035 sites, which was a below average launch for a science fiction-themed animated feature with comparable attendance to Titan A.E.. The sci-fi animation sub-genre is typically a tough sell, particularly when it’s action-oriented, but Planet 51 was more akin to Monsters Vs. Aliens and others with its cartoony comedy approach. However, the role reversal premise of casting humans as the invaders with the aliens scared of them wasn’t broadly appealing beyond its one-note gag. According to distributor Sony Pictures’ exit polling, the picture had younger appeal than the more popular animated titles: 86 percent of the audience was parents and their children under 12 years old, and 51 percent was female.

Precious crossed the threshold for nationwide release (albeit barely) and continued its potent run, blazing past Slumdog Millionaire through the same point. The drama garnered an estimated $11 million at 629 sites (up from 174 last weekend), bringing its total to $21.4 million in 17 days.

2012 crashed at the same rate as The Day After Tomorrow in its second weekend. The latest Roland Emmerich disaster dropped 59 percent to an estimated $26.5 million, lifting its total to $108.2 million in ten days. The Day After Tomorrow, though, had grossed $128.5 million through the same point.

Meanwhile, A Christmas Carol (2009) took a sizable hit in its third weekend, despite only modest direct competition from Planet 51. The animated holiday spectacle slowed 45 percent to an estimated $12.2 million and has gathered $79.8 million in 17 days, posting significantly lower attendance than The Polar Express and The Santa Clause 2 among other through the same point.

On the foreign front, New Moon was also auspicious, pulling in an estimated $118 million from 25 territories. Throw in its domestic take, and its worldwide opening was $258.8 million, ranking as the seventh highest-grossing of all time. 2012 wasn’t far behind in its second weekend, raking in an estimated $100.5 million, and its tally rose to $341.1 million for a whopping worldwide total of $449.3 million in just 12 days.