‘New Moon’ shines at box office

'Twilight' sequel nabs $140.7 million

Biting off the third best weekend opening of all time with $140.7 million from 4,024 theaters, Summit Entertainment’s female-fueled “New Moon” explodes the myth that you need an all-audience film to do that level of biz, or that fanboys hold all the power.

At the international B.O., the vampire romancer bowed to $118.1 million from 6,681 prints in 26 territories for a sparkling worldwide opening total of $258.8 million.

The power of femmes also astounded with the overperformance of Warner Bros.’ Sandra Bullock sports drama “The Blind Side,” which debuted domestically to an estimated $34.5 million from 3,110 theaters. Together, “New Moon” and “Blind Side” led the second-best weekend ever in terms of total ticket receipts. (The “New Moon” aud was approximately 80% female, “Blind Side’s,” 59%.)

Domestic B.O. revs for the weekend are estimated around $250 million; the only weekend to do more was “The Dark Knight” open-ing frame. That July 2008 sesh saw roughly $260 million in ticket sales.

Distributors were exuberant over the results, particularly as it occurred outside summer. They are hoping it portends a lucrative Thanksgiving, which brings a crop of new films.

The third new wide release of the frame was Sony’s kiddie toon “Planet 51.” Pic, distributed on behalf of Spain’s Ilion Animation, debuted to $12.6 million from 3,035 theaters, coming in No. 4. It was easily beat out for No. 3 by Sony’s own “2012,” which declined 59% in its second frame to an estimated $26.5 million for a cume of $108.2 million.

Overseas, “2012” grossed $100.5 million from 107 markets for a cume of $341.1 million and a stupendous worldwide total of $449.3 million in its first 10 days.

The specialty B.O. continued to see strong results for Lionsgate’s “Precious.” Drama grossed $11 million as it expanded to a total of 629 theaters domestically for a per-location average of $17,500 and cume of $21.4 million in its third sesh. Film came in No. 6 overall.

Among specialty openers, Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces” opened to $107,597 from two theaters in New York for a location average of $53,798. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing.

First Look saw a soft debut for Werner Herzog’s Nicolas Cage topliner “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” Pic grossed an estimated $257,267 from 27 theaters for a location average of $9,528.

Twentieth Century Fox’s animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” held well in its second frame, grossing an estimated $199,142 from four locations for a foxy theater average of $49,786 and cume of $557,678. Voiced by George Clooney and Meryl Streep, the Wes Anderson-directed family/prestige film expands nationwide on Wednesday.

After “Embraces” and “Mr. Fox,” “New Moon” grabbed the third-best location average of the weekend at $34,965.

“New Moon” — grossing nearly double “Twilight’s” $69.6 million debut a year ago — began breaking records not long after it unspooled at 12:01 a.m. Friday, securing itself a spot in the pantheon of hit franchise pics and marking a huge victory for Summit.

Sequel grossed $26.3 million in midnight runs, besting record-holder “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” ($22.2 million).

Full Friday number clocked in at $72.7 million — including midnight grosses — the best opening day in history and beating the $67.2 million earned by “Dark Knight” on its first Friday.

Heading into the weekend, rival studios believed “New Moon” would have trouble going north of $110 million, since it is driven by only two out of four quadrants of the moviegoing audience: Females under 25, and those over. Even Summit execs might have agreed.

But the ferocious appetite for the franchise among girls and younger women proved those predictions wrong. Of the females turning out, a full 50% were under 21.

“This blew away a lot of preconceived notions about who you should play to, and how you get to a certain group,” Summit prexy of distribution Richie Fay said.

Despite Friday’s huge numbers, “New Moon” declined only about 41% on Saturday, the same drop “Twilight” had sen. That indicates that the fanbase has grown, since “New Moon” did so much more for the weekend.

For years, studios have relied on fanboy-driven films or families for big opening grosses. Thanks to long lives, female properties can ultimately see big grosses; they just haven’t opened so big.

“Twilight” cumed $192.8 million domestically and $192.2 million at the foreign B.O. for a worldwide total of $385 million. All eyes will be on “New Moon” to see by how much it might eclipse that total.

For the last year, Summit has carried out a well-orchestrated marketing campaign for the sequel, directed by Chris Weitz and returning Kristen Stewart and teen heartthrobs Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in the lead roles.

Sales of Stephenie Meyers’ four-book “Twilight” series also have continued to climb. Two years ago, 1 million copies had sold worldwide. Today, that figure stands at 85 million.

As in the U.S., “New Moon” is shining overseas, outgunning or matching franchises “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings.” It scored the top opening of all time in Australia ($13.3 million), New Zealand ($2.6 million) and the Philippines ($2.1 million). “New Moon” generated enormous business in Europe, led by the U.K. ($18.7 million), France ($17 million), Spain ($13.7 million) and Italy ($13 million). It also generated plenty of interest in Latin America. Summit owns worldwide rights to the film, but it is being released via local distribs overseas.

Summit releases the next title in the franchise, “Eclipse,” on June 30, 2010. Just as “New Moon” worked with femme fans, so did “Blind Side.” Film received an A+ from CinemaScore.

Warners prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said that 75% of the audience was over age 25, meaning it got older women not so distracted by “New Moon.”

“Blind Side” delivered Bullock the top opening of her career, besting the $33.6 million opening of Disney’s “The Proposal” in June. Film is based on the real-life story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron.

Also starring Tim McGraw, “Blind Side” was financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment. Opening was Alcon’s best to date.

“The movie did well in all markets, but we saw outstanding results in small towns and middle-sized markets,” Fellman said. “And I think younger people will start to gravitate to us. I think they were busy this weekend.”