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‘Twilight’ glows as Summit high point

2,000 shows already sold out

With nearly 2,000 shows already sold out, Summit Entertainment’s teen vampire romance “Twilight” is looking more like a studio blockbuster than some of the blockbusters.

In other words: Every studio in town, by their own admission, has “Twilight” envy.

The debut of “Twilight” at midnight will mark a milestone for the relatively young Summit Entertainment, which has suffered a string of early box office disappointments since expanding into the production, acquisition and distribution game.

“Twilight” also could prove that there is room for a new generation of mini-majors, a club that also includes Overture Films and Harry Sloan’s reconfigured MGM.

Based on the bestselling book series by Stephenie Meyer, “Twilight” has whipped up such a frenzy among tween and teenage girls that advance ticket sales are the biggest for any film since “The Dark Knight.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, online ticketing services Fandango and MovieTickets.com said roughly 2,000 runs were sold out, including 600 midnight shows.

How high “Twilight,” directed by Catherine Hardwicke, opens this weekend depends on whether the movie leapfrogs beyond its target demo. On the strength of girls and moms alone, “Twilight” could open in the $45 million-$60 million range. Some say it could go higher.

Fangirls have shown new box office might this year, fueling such hits as “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” and “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” while women delivered hit “Sex and the City.”

“Twilight” has climbed to No. 7 on Fandango’s top 10 list of most advance ticket sales, besting “Sex and the City.” It’s landed at No. 14 on MovieTicket.com’s list, behind “Sex and the City.”

The tale of how “Twilight” got to Summit is already a classic. Pic was put into turnaround by MTV Films before being shopped to other bidders. The first to bite was Summit.

Summit’s biggest-grossing pic to date is “Never Back Down,” which cumed $24.8 million. This summer, 3-D toon “Fly Me to the Moon” failed to catch on, grossing $12.2 million domestically. More recently, “Sex Drive” only mustered a gross of $8.3 million.

Summit and Overture got into the production, acquisition, marketing and distribution game roughly at the same time, and began releasing films in earnest this year. (Summit did release one film in 2007.)

Sloan’s reconfigured MGM likewise is intent on producing and releasing its own slate, after serving as a rent-a-studio up until now. MGM and subsid United Artists will release Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie” in December.

Overture has scored several victories early on, including sleeper hit “The Visitor,” one of the top-grossing specialty films of 2008 and an awards contender. Overture also is launching an awards campaign for Christmas specialty release “Last Chance Harvey.”

On the more commercial side of Overture’s slate, Al Pacino-Robert De Niro cop thriller “Righteous Kill” also surprised this fall when pulling in a sturdy $39.7 million.

Inhouse production “Traitor” grossed $23.5 million.

Overture also is bolstered by owning its own homevid division, as well as having a pay TV deal.

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