A year short on big box-office events is finally heating up, thanks to Twi-hards across the country.
Fans of Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga began arriving early -- very early -- at multiplexes for Thursday's late-night premiere of "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, for example, interviewed one 20-year-old Garfield Heights man who got to the Cinemark Valley View at 6 a.m. to grab the first spot in line for a midnight screening.
“I could relate to all of it -- Jacob’s situation with Bella, Bella’s situation with Jacob,” Ron Bair told the Plain Dealer, relating his passion for the "Twilight" novels and earlier films.
Missouri fans who arrived at the Campbell 16 in Springfield had the option of seeing the first three "Twilight" installments to kill the time until the midnight premiere.
"I've been here since 10:15 this morning," a Twihard told a local news site OzarksFirst.com.
The truly dedicated camped out five days before Monday's global premiere of the film at Downtown Los Angeles' L.A. Live complex (below) in hopes of catching a glimpse of franchise stars Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart.
The excitement is good for Summit Entertainment and the broader motion picture business, which could use a hit to bolster a sagging domestic box office, down 3.5 percent from the same point last year.
In 2010, four event films opened to more than $100 million at the domestic box office. But 2011 has been quiet, save for the record-breaking $169.2 million debut of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" over the summer.
But this weekend, youthful moviegoers finally have a reason to get dressed up early for a movie, with the penultimate "Twilight" predicted to gross $140 million from Friday through Sunday.
While "Harry Potter's" three-day domestic opening record of $169.2 million seems safe, lofty franchise records set by earlier "Twilight" installments could fall this weekend.
The franchise mark for best three-day start is in reach: "Twilight Saga: New Moon" started out to $142.8 million over its first 72 hours in 2009.
Last year's "Eclipse" installment grossed a whopping $176.4 million, but that was over five days, rendering the comparison moot.
There's also a midnight record to consider: "Eclipse" started out to $30 million, a benchmark that seems possible given "Breaking Dawn's" strong pre-sale numbers and incredible pre-release tracking.
According to research firm NRG, virtually every female human younger than 25 living in the U.S. and Canada -- 99 percent -- knows "Breaking Dawn" is coming to a theater near them, a ubiquity few films achieve.
Within that age bracket, 72 percent say they have "definite interest" in seeing the film and an incredible 55 percent call it their "first choice" to see the next time they're in a theater.
By Monday, box office watchers wil know how many of them went to the movies this weekend.