November 20, 2008 / 6:00 AM / in 9 years

Young vampires and heroic dog set to boost box office

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Weekend ticket sales at the North American box office are shaping up as the kind that industry executives dream about.

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

Just look at the new entrants on Friday: the youthful vampire film “Twilight” and the animated family comedy “Bolt” each target reasonably distinct audiences and should open north of $50 million and $40 million, respectively.

Then consider that last weekend’s James Bond behemoth “Quantum of Solace” should register well above $30 million. And the cartoon sequel “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” ought to ring up more than $20 million.

Do the math, and it’s plain to see that those four releases alone will go far in matching the industry’s $162 million haul from the same weekend a year ago. But it’s also generally true that a flood of business for one or more big releases tends to raise all theatrical boats.

So it’s a foregone conclusion that the week end boxoffice will outpace its year-ago comparison -- just as in seven of the eight previous sessions -- as Hollywood marks a merry start to the holiday box office season.

“Twilight,” which officially cost indie studio Summit Entertainment $37 million to produce after Paramount and Fox Atomic passed on the project, will open in about 3,400 theaters. Summit executives -- when they’re not busy managing expectations on the scope of their “Twilight” good fortune -- are pinching themselves.

Serving as a barometer of the “Twilight” windfall, Disney’s 3-D film “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” played to a similar, slightly younger audience and opened February 1 with $31.1 million from just 683 playdates en route to a $65.3 million domestic total.

Advance ticket sales for “Twilight” have reached the rarefied “Hannah” level, with female youngsters and more than a few moms among those keenest to rush multiplexes this weekend. Hundreds of “Twilight” performances set for midnight Thursday have sold out, and executives hope male youngsters will join in the frenzy during the weekend.

“The boys will show up if they want to be around girls this weekend,” said Richie Fay, Summit’s domestic distribution president.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison top a youthful ensemble cast in the Catherine Hardwicke-helmed film, which is based on a best-seller by Stephenie Meyer.

Disney’s “Bolt” features Cyrus among its voice cast, with John Travolta in the title role of a Hollywood canine deceived into believing that his superpowers are real. Disney registered strong results for its 800-plus sneak previews of “Bolt” last weekend and will feature more than 900 3-D playdates among its 3,500-plus engagements this session.

As for the film’s box office prospects amid the rabid female fervor for “Twilight” and a likely big sophomore session for “Solace,” suffice it to say that Disney executives appear frightened neither by vampires nor secret agents.

“There’s enough audience separation to make them all click very well,” Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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