'Breaking Dawn -- Part 2' noses past 'Part 1' in Thursday night plays

And so it begins: Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2″ kickstarted what should be a record-setting three-day domestic bow with a franchise-best $30.4 million from Thursday 10 p.m. and midnight shows.

“Part 2″ did a shade better than its predecessor, which earned $30.3 million from late night grosses last year. The franchise’s second installment, 2009′s “New Moon,” translated $26.3 million in midnights into the series’ biggest three-day opening weekend, at $142.8 million domestically.

The third “Twilight” installment, “Eclipse,” earned $30 million from midnights in summer 2010.

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter” finale currently holds the record as the biggest midnight grosser, with $43.5 million Stateside.

Pre-weekend tracking for “Part 2″ lands the finale at north of $150 million. The film earned $13.8 million Wednesday from six overseas territories.

The weekend’s “Twilight” fever is evident in the conclusion’s massive midnight gross, which benefited from a four-movie marathon in North America that preceded “Part 2″ late-night screenings. Summit expands the film today to 4,070 locations.

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