LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" smashed the record for a single-day opening at the North American box office, and was on track to score one of the biggest weekend tallies of all time, according to preliminary data issued on Saturday.
The vampire romance sequel earned $72.7 million across the United States and Canada on Friday, a figure that includes record-breaking midnight sales of $26.3 million, said the film's closely held distributor Summit Entertainment.
The old record for a single-day opening was $62.2 million, held by last year's "Batman" sequel "The Dark Knight," which went on to become the second-biggest grossing movie of all time in North America before accounting for inflation.
Such heights could be difficult for the "Twilight" sequel to attain. Still, industry observers expect it could finish up with upwards of $125 million for the weekend once Saturday sales data and Sunday estimates are issued early on Sunday.
That would place the film at No. 4 in the record books, behind "The Dark Knight" ($158 million), "Spider-Man 3" ($151 million), and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ($136 million), and ahead of "Shrek the Third" ($122 million), according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.
The previous record for midnight sales was held by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which kicked off its run with $22.2 million in sales in July.
The "New Moon" predecessor, "Twilight," released exactly a year ago, ended up with $193 million in North America after an opening weekend of $70 million.
The sequel revisits the dangerous romance between high school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
After falling in love with each other in "Twilight," Bella and Edward break up in "New Moon." Bella finds solace in her friendship with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), an American Indian who is also a werewolf. Jacob protects Bella from vampires who kill humans, but she still longs for the gentle blood-sucker Edward who got away.
All the stars have become sex symbols, filling up gossip columns with their quotidian deeds, and fans lined up to see the sequel days before it opened.
The "Twilight" film franchise is based on a series of four novels of the same name by Stephenie Meyer, which her publisher says have sold 85 million copies worldwide. A third film is due out in June.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham