Final ‘Twilight’ film just shy of opening-weekend franchise record

In the end, “Breaking Dawn” couldn’t generate as much light as “New Moon.”

The fifth and final “Twilight” film hit theaters this weekend and did incredible business, grossing $141.3 million domestically, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment. Although that is a fantastic start for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the film came in just shy of the franchise opening-weekend record held by 2009’s “New Moon” with $142.8 million.

However, the final “Twilight” film could easily become the highest-grossing domestic film in the “Twilight” franchise, surpassing the record $300.5 million the third film, “Eclipse,” made in 2010. Those Twi-hards who saw the movie this weekend loved it, assigning the movie an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. With word-of-mouth strong, it seems likely that many of the series’ young fans will go back to see the movie again in the coming weeks. Like all of its predecessors, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2" attracted a heavily female audience: 79% of the crowd were women, and half were under the age of 25.

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The film’s release marks the end of what has been a cultural phenomenon since 2008, when the first movie became a surprise hit and catapulted its young stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner to stratospheric levels of fame.

The final movie, which has received the best reviews of any film in the franchise, sees newlywed vampire couple Edward and Bella struggling to protect their child from an evil vampire clan. Fans rushed out to see the finale late Thursday evening, when the movie debuted in roughly 2,000 theaters nationwide and proceeded to collect $30.4 million by Friday morning. Summit, which spent $120 million on the film’s production budget, opened the movie slightly before midnight to try to get a few hours of extra business from moviegoers. However, the move didn’t generate too many extra ticket sales; 2010’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” grossed $30 million from midnight screenings alone.

Overseas, the picture opened in 61 foreign territories and grossed a whopping $199.6 million. The movie performed best in the United Kingdom and Spain, both of which the cast traveled to for special red-carpet premieres. With such strong early receipts, it seems likely that “Breaking Dawn — Part 2" will ultimately surpass the $430.9 million “Part 1" grossed abroad last year — a record for the franchise.

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As a result of the movie’s excellent business domestically, North American ticket sales were up 11% compared with the same weekend last year. With a strong lineup of holiday films set for release in the coming weeks, including “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Misérables,” receipts and attendance had both lifted roughly 5% each compared with 2011.

Another film that did well this weekend was Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which expanded from 11 theaters to 1,775 and grossed $21 million. While the movie earned a strong per-theater average in limited release, this weekend was the true test of whether or not the period drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis could attract a broader audience.

While the well-reviewed picture still attracted an older audience — 67% were over the age of 35 — its weekend gross bodes well for the film’s commercial prospects in the coming weeks. The film about the 16th president of the United States is being distributed by Walt Disney Studios but was financed by DreamWorks Studios, 20th Century Fox, Participant Media and Dune Entertainment for $65 million. The movie, which received an “A” CinemaScore from opening weekend moviegoers, is already the subject of heavy Oscar buzz.

Meanwhile, “Skyfall” became the most successful movie in the James Bond franchise — not adjusting for inflation. This weekend the film starring Daniel Craig reached a phenomenal worldwide total of $669.2 million, easily surpassing the $599.2 million global tally held by 2006’s “Casino Royale.” After debuting in the top position at the domestic box office last weekend, “Skyfall” saw its ticket sales fall 53% to $41.5 million this weekend, raising its 10-day total to $161.3 million.



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