'New Moon' may outgross the first film

Summit Entertainment’s sequel “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” will have a ferocious box office bite as it unspools today in a pack of foreign territories before opening in the U.S. at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

There’s plenty of evidence suggesting “New Moon” could open well north of “Twilight’s” domestic debut. A year ago this weekend, “Twilight” surpassed industry expectations when it opened to $69.7 million domestically. The question is how big the sequel can go.

Fueled by book sales, more PR attention than the first one, heavy promotion for music from the film and a huge amount of online traffic, “New Moon” has been pre-selling tickets at a record pace. On Tuesday, MovieTickets.com reported over 2,150 sellouts, with 200 sellouts in L.A. and Gotham. Online ticket service Fandango also reports surging sales.

Thousands of fans crowded the streets of Westwood for the premiere Monday at two theaters, with many of the faithful having camped out for several days to glimpse the stars.

In addition, MySpace attracted nearly 3 million viewers to its exclusive webcast of the event, a record number for the social-networking giant’s red-carpet webcast and for Ustream, which produced the live stream. The site will rebroadcast the event later this week.

Fan-based movies often boast huge opening day grosses, but then drop off significantly on Saturday. Such was the case with “Twilight” last November. If “New Moon” holds well from Friday to Saturday, it will be a sign that the audience has indeed broadened.

The “Twilight” opening, after the strong bow of Warner Bros.’ “Sex and the City” just months before, confirmed that female auds can make a film a hit, but the two pics helped disprove the theory that femmes don’t usually create a big opening weekend.

Two years ago, when Summit’s international sales division first offered “Twilight” to foreign distribs, Stephenie Meyer’s young adult book series had sold one million copies worldwide.

To date, more than 85 million copies have been sold, a sign of the tremendous appetite for the romance-fantasy storyline involving a teenaged girl, vampires and werewolves.

How much “New Moon” can overtake “Twilight” in terms of box office performance depends upon how many adult women, and even men, buy tickets. Other new entries at the domestic B.O. include Warner Bros.’ Sandra Bullock sports drama “The Blind Side” and Sony’s toon “Planet 51,” but “New Moon” is considered the 800-pound gorilla (or vampire).

While tween and teenage girls remain the core fanbase, the “Twilight” franchise is drawing more and more adult women, particularly in the 25-35 demo, according to domestic tracking. Fans camping out last weekend in Westwood Village awaiting Monday night’s premiere included many adult women as well as teens.

“New Moon” should likewise sparkle overseas as well, opening day and date in most territories.

This time, the cast made stops around the globe promoting the sequel.

Summit owns worldwide rights to the franchise, but is releasing through local distribs.

The original “Twilight” eventually grossed $191.5 million domestically, and another $192.2 million at the international B.O. Strongest overseas grosses came from territories including France, Germany, Australia and Spain.

In Germany and Spain, sporting arenas were filled to capacity with fans eager for a glimpse of Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner. A similar event in the U.K. was combined with a concert. In Australia, fans are spending more on “Twilight” merchandise than those in the U.S.

In Sweden, “New Moon” has been slapped with the country’s highest rating, 15, for its sense of violence and a “constant mood of anxiety.” Pic’s predecessor “Twilight” received the same rating. Pic is rated PG-13 in the U.S.

As part of the tub-thumping in the U.S., Summit will return “Twilight” to theaters Thursday, allowing fans to see the two movies back-to-back.

Monday’s event in Westwood was the only premiere for the pic. The spectacle included two real-life wolves at the Hammer Museum.

The sequel returns Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in the lead roles.

Chris Weitz directed “New Moon,” while “Twilight” scribe Melissa Rosenberg returned to adapt. Originally, Summit had talked about shooting “New Moon” and three-quel “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” opening next June, back to back, but ended up one at a time. Director David Slade began shooting the third in September.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more