Moviegoers enter "Twilight" zone at box office

Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:55pm EST
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Twilight," the vampire romance that has spurred feverish anticipation among young female moviegoers, took a bigger-than-expected $70.55 million bite out of the weekend box office in North America, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

The teen smash crushed the competition, including "Bolt," a Walt Disney Co canine cartoon that made its debut at No. 3 with a disappointing $27 million.

"Twilight's" showing was the best opening weekend for a movie since "The Dark Knight" launched with a record $158 million in July.

Last weekend's champion, the James Bond outing "Quantum of Solace," slipped to No. 2 with $27.4 million.

"Twilight," the first in a planned franchise based on the best-selling books by Stephenie Meyer, was released by nascent independent studio Summit Entertainment LLC. Studios such as MTV Films and Fox Atomic had passed on the project.

Not unlike each new "Harry Potter" movie, the film has had fans on tenterhooks for months, in this case young girls and their mothers. Many fans camped out overnight ahead of the film's world premiere in Los Angeles on Monday. Hundreds of "Twilight" performances set for midnight Thursday sold out quickly.

Going into the weekend, industry pundits had forecast a three-day opening somewhere above $50 million but that target was blown out by the film's $36 million take on Friday -- a sum that almost matched its official budget.

Women accounted for three-quarters of the audience and 55 percent of viewers were under the age of 25, Summit said. It was confident the movie could spread its appeal to other demographics.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart attend the premiere of the movie "Twilight" at the Mann Village and Bruin theatres in Westwood, California November 17, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>