Summit's vamp saga tops $139 mil Stateside

Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1″ may have fallen short of a series-best domestic debut with its estimated $139.5 million, but the penultimate “Twilight” pic eclipses its three predecessors on a worldwide scale with a whopping $283.5 million.

“Breaking Dawn” debuted just ahead of “New Moon,” which grossed $274.8 million during its first global sesh. That pic opened in the U.S. this same weekend in 2009 with $142.8 million. (The franchise’s third offering, “Eclipse,” bowed mid-week last year, earning $157.6 million domestically in its first five days, with a global debut of $261.6 million.)

The second-to-last “Twilight” pic is the fifth-highest domestic opener of all time, directly behind “New Moon,” which ceded 10th place to “Breaking Dawn” among the best-ever global launches.

Weekend domestic totals were up approximately 15% over the same sesh last year, when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ set the bar high with an opening of $125 million.

Warner Bros.’ 3D “Happy Feet Two” drastically underperformed compared to its predecessor, bowing to an estimated $22 million vs. the 2D original’s $41.5 million opening in 2006. The toon sequel, which skewed 54% female, may have lost some of its femme base to “Breaking Dawn,” especially moms with teen and tween girls.

Budgeted at a reported $135 million, “Happy Feet Two” could have better luck with family auds next weekend, though it faces a crowded field as three other family pics bow nationwide on Wednesday.

“We need to get that holiday playtime under our belt,” said Warner domestic distribution prexy Dan Fellman. “By next Monday, we should have a much better concept of where we stand.”

The specialty market heated up as Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” broke into the domestic B.O.’s top 10 with an estimated three-day take of $1.2 million from just 29 locations. Pic, which bowed Wednesday for a five-day cume of $1.3 million, played to sold-out screenings in primarily arthouse bookings. Searchlight plans to give the film a significant push over Thanksgiving weekend, with approximately 400 additional playdates on Nov. 23.

Limited expansions for both “Like Crazy” and “Melancholia” were middling — “Like Crazy” broadened to 109 locations for an estimated weekend total of $525,000 and a per-screen average of $4,817, while “Melancholia” grossed $350,000 but did better per screen than “Like Crazy,” averaging $6,250 from 56 playdates.

“Like Crazy,” from Paramount Vantage, has cumed $1.8 million after four weeks; Magnolia’s “Melancholia” has done slightly more than $700,000 in two.

Enduring vamp love?

Not surprisingly, “Breaking Dawn” did best in exit polls with its core female aud, who gave the pic an A- CinemaScore rating. But the film didn’t do much worse overall, with an OK B+ appraisal.

An overwhelming 80% of the film’s audience in its domestic opening were women, with 60% of filmgoers under 21. Both over and under-21 femmes gave the film an above-average share of definite recommendations.

Richie Fay, prexy of domestic distribution for Summit, said the film’s holdover potential should be boosted by date crowds.

Adult auds should turn out for the film in subsequent weeks, Fay said, especially since most adults likely avoided the mad rush of opening weekend.

“New Moon,” however, played more evenly with over/under 21 auds and that pic dropped 70% in its second frame. A sizable drop like that wouldn’t be surprising after an opening like “Breaking Dawn’s” — after all, midnight grosses added a series-best $30.3 million to the film’s weekend tally.

“Breaking Dawn” is already on the fast track to profitability, even with a reported $110 million budget and a prolific P&A spend. “New Moon” grossed $296.6 million domestically; “Eclipse,” $300.5 million.

Internationally, “New Moon” cumed $416 million (more than double “Twilight” at $200 million), while “Eclipse” came close to passing the $400 million mark.

For “Breaking Dawn” this weekend, the U.K. came in as the pic’s top-grossing territory, with an estimated three-day bow of $22 million, mark the series’ best launch there. Russia and France followed, with $15 million and $14.5 million, respectively. “Breaking Dawn” narrowly outdid “Eclipse” in Gaul, while it played on par with the third installment in Russia.

Warner Bros. launched “Happy Feet Two” day-and-date with the U.S. in Mexico, where the toon earned a solid $1.5 million, roughly 10% higher than the original. The sequel unspooled at five overseas territories, grossing $2.6 million, with Italy, Brazil and Japan bowing the pic next week.

The toon’s domestic perf was hurt not only by “Twilight’s” femme hold but also by “Puss in Boots” and “Jack and Jill,” both of which have played best with women.

Like “Breaking Dawn,” “Happy Feet” received an overall B+ CinemaScore rating but did better (A-) with female auds.

3D doesn’t give ‘Happy’ feet

3D didn’t tank for the toon, but neither did the format give it much lift with a so-so 50% weekend share. “Puss” launched with a similar 3D takeaway — better than some of the summer’s 3D toons, which mostly topped out at 40%-45% from 3D. Imax contributed just 10% of the gross for “Happy Feet,” but the exhib had less than 7% of the total locations.

Elsewhere on the family front, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” continues to play strongly at overseas wickets, collecting another $21.7 million for an international cume of $187.6 million.

Par released “Tintin” this weekend in China, where it grossed a healthy $7.4 million. In France, meanwhile, the film crossed $50 million.

Gotham’s Metropolitan Opera celebrated its 50th live HD transmission on Saturday, screening Philip Glass’ “Satyagraha” for an estimated $1 million in North America. It was seen live on more than 850 screens, with an additional 500 in a total of 38 countries outside the U.S.

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