LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fans have been mooning over all things "Twilight" since the vampire-romance film bowed so bloody well exactly a year ago. So it's no surprise that the sequel, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," is projected to sink its teeth into more than $85 million during its first weekend.
"New Moon" rises in 4,024 locations, beginning with 3,500 performances at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Online ticketers said the Summit Entertainment sequel has run up the biggest advance sales of any film in history, with sellouts ensured for many showtimes throughout the weekend. Higher production values and the cast's growing celebrity should help "New Moon" broaden the fanged franchise's base of support from teens and tweens to daughter-and-mom combos and even single older females.
"We know who our audience is, and it's basically females of all ages," Summit distribution chief Richie Fay said. "But some of the TV spots are playing to young males, and we're getting some response to that."
Like "Twilight," "New Moon" is based on one of a series of books by Stephenie Meyer and is rated PG-13. Chris Weitz ("About a Boy") takes over directing duties for the sequel, and Taylor Lautner's werewolf-in-waiting character muscles aside Robert Pattinson's blood-sucking sulk for predominant screen time. A second book-based sequel, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," is scheduled for release June 30.
Produced for an estimated $37 million, "Twilight" unspooled with $69.6 million during its opening weekend and fetched $191.5 million domestically. That cumulative figure will rise a bit after Summit re-releases the first picture for one day only to help fuel interest in the sequel.
Some believe "New Moon" could flirt with the record set in July by Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," with $22 million in opening midnight coin. If that proves true, look for "New Moon" to threaten the magical $100 million mark through Sunday.
With the Summit sequel potentially drawing upon a diverse range of demographic groups, Warner Bros. might find it difficult to capture the attention of moviegoers who otherwise would be expected to support its sports-themed Sandra Bullock movie, "The Blind Side."
A coming-of-age tale that should resonate with younger audiences, "Blind Side" also targets older women, based on the appeal of its star. It remains to be seen whether young and older females alike will prove too preoccupied with the weekend buzz film to get behind Warners' lower-profile movie. Early reviews largely have been positive for "Blind Side," which is drawing a wide range of forecasts, as low as midteen millions to $20 million-plus.
Situated a bit more propitiously this weekend, the animated feature "Planet 51" has the tots-and-parents crowd pretty much to itself. Although Disney's 3D animated feature "A Christmas Carol" is likely to post a strong third session, prerelease tracking surveys suggest that marketing for the PG-rated "Planet" has taken hold, with awareness fairly high. An opening in the high-teen millions looks doable. Sony is distributing the film for Spain-based producer Ilion Animation.
Elsewhere, it will bear watching whether the vampire movie drains support from Sony's sci-fi action feature "2012," which opened to $65 million last weekend. But even a 60 percent drop would put "2012" north of $25 million in its sophomore session, giving the Roland Emmerich-helmed picture the weekend's silver-medal position.
Also this weekend, Lionsgate drama "Precious" expands to 600 or so theaters after two frames in more limited release. An early awards-season buzz title, "Precious" totes cumulative box office of $9 million and counting.