Twilight Sequel New Moon Sets Records at the Box Office

Twilight Sequel New Moon Sets Records at the Box Office

Friday night it was Jimmy Kimmel’s turn to host the young stars of The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Kristen Stewart , Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson

The Kimmel audience must have been among the few Twilight Saga fans who didn’t give the shirts off their backs to see the second installment in the planned quartet of movies based on the Stephenie Meyer novels about a teen girl’s love with the proper vampire. With its $72.7 million Friday take — more than its predecessor, last year’s Twilight, earned in its first full weekend — New Moon set a one-day record for the North American box office. By tonight, according to studio estimates, it will have earned $140.7 million, which makes the film a prime mover in what could be, according to Variety, “the second-best weekend ever at the domestic B.O. in terms of overall ticket sales.” And not on a holiday. And not in summer. As one noted journalist observed, on hearing these numbers, “Wow.”

That $140.7 million would also make New Moon the third hottest opener in movie history, after those predictable summer attractions The Dark Knight and Spider-man 3. Please note that the core demographic for those two smashes were young males who love comics; this one became a smash because of girls who read books. The supersmash status of New Moon shows that women can make megahits, and that, as with Harry Potter, a beloved book franchise can translate to widely and wildly popular movies.

The New Moon madness began with a thunderclap: it earned $26.2 million just in its midnight-Thursday shows. This was another new record, and it exceeded the entire weekend gross of five of the No. 1 pictures of autumn: Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs , Michael Jackson’s This Is It, Paranormal Activity and the horror comedy Zombieland. That last stat should end, for now, the question of whether zombies are the new vampires. These days, with Wolverine hogging DVD shelves and Jason’s hirsute brethren commandeering the mall marquees, it’s werewolves who will give our fanged friends the biggest battle for a young lady’s affections.

The size of New Moon’s boodle left the industry’s box-office handicappers flummoxed. Like crazed billionaires trying to outbid one another for an evening with Angelina Jolie, they kept jacking up their weekend estimates as New Moon broke record upon record, day by day. On Thursday the smart money was on a $100 million opening; on Friday the ante was raised to $120 million, and on Saturday they finally got it right. Of course, the $140.7 million is simply another estimate: Summit Pictures’ Sunday-morning guess at Sunday evening’s take. The real number, released tomorrow afternoon, could be much higher or much lower — all of which underlines the validity of screenwriter William Goldman’s dictum that, in Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”

If New Moon had not existed — well, many young hearts would be broken, but also, the big news would have been the $34.5 million racked up by the true-life inspirational sports drama The Blind Side. Based on another book