"New Moon" poised for No. 1 box office bow

Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:33pm EST
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By Carl DiOrio

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.

ON THE OTHER 'SIDE'   Continued...