Monster Smash: $140.7M Opening for ‘New Moon’

“Twilight” sequel enjoys third biggest premiere ever; “Blind Spot” also off to big start at $34.5 million.

Last Updated: November 23, 2009 @ 1:35 PM

Everybody knew it would be big, but the opening of Summit Entertainment’s “Twilight” sequel, “New Moon,” ended up being much bigger than even the wildest pre-release expectations.

The film about teenage vampires and werewolves enjoyed the third largest three-day premiere in domestic box-office history this weekend at $140.7 million, according to studio estimates, surpassing 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($135.6 million), but finishing behind 2008’s “The Dark Knight” ($158.4 million) and 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” ($151.1 million).

It was the biggest November opening ever, and it was also the second biggest non-holiday debut behind “The Dark Knight.”

Taking in $118.1 million in 25 international territories, “Twilight Saga: New Moon” – which costs Summit $50 million to produce – enjoyed a global opening of $258.8 million.

As with last year’s first “Twilight” installment, which opened to $69.6 million in North America on the same third weekend of November, on the way to a $385 million global haul, females drove the bus, comprising 80 percent of the audience.

According to Richie Fay, president of distribution for Summit, participation among young men crept up to 20 percent for the sequel, “but I think we attracted more of the female audience,” he said. “With the overall popularity of the books, it’s become more of a social evening for moms and daughters.”

Happily for Warner Bros., during a weekend that saw distributors take in $252.9 million all told – up 59 percent over the same weekend last year – there was plenty of female audience to go around.

Warner’s “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock as a middle-class mom who takes in a homeless African-American left tackle, had an outsized opening of its own at $34.5 million.

Warner officials had predicted an opening in the “high teens to low twenties” range. One rival distribution official who’d seen the film concurred with the estimate. “It’s going to face competition from ‘New Moon,’ but that said, it’s a heck of a movie,” he noted.

Indeed, word-of-mouth was excellent for “Blind Side,” which garnered an “A-plus” CinamaScore grade.

But it was also audience composition which set it apart, with Warner finding that rare combination that draws both ends of the couples spectrum with equal enthusiasm.

The film was based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 football book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.” Showcased extensively in Sports Illustrated, the acclaimed book chronicled how the emergence of speedy, athletically dominant pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor led to the counter-emergence of gifted, highly paid left tackles – i.e. the guys who protect mostly right-handed quarterbacks’ “blind sides” from these game-changing monsters.

Half of the book was devoted to the compelling human interest angle of Michael Oher, who – with the help of do-gooder Leigh Anne Touhy (Bullock’s character) – overcame acute poverty as a teenager to ultimately become a highly compensated left tackle for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

For its part, Warner played up the maternal relationship in its marketing, effectively overlaying a narrative that was appealing to female audiences.

With the strong performance of stellar two newcomers, Sony saw its box-office champ from a week ago, Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” drop 60 percent from its premiere, finishing the weekend with $26.5 million.

Still hot internationally, however, “2012” is going to finish the weekend right around the $450 million mark globally.

Sony also opened a family-targeted animated film, “Planet 51,” to $12.6 million. That was right around pre-release expectations for a movie that the studio is distributing for the U.K.’s HandMade Films.

Finishing behind “Planet 51” in fifth place, “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” experienced a 45 percent week-to-week drop in its third weekend – a distressing sign for a $200 million Robert Zemeckis film that needs to show legs in order to be profitable. The 3D film’s $12.2 million weekend brings its cumulative domestic box-office total to only about $80 million.

In sixth place, Lionsgate continued its successful platformed strategy for awards-seeker “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire,” with the film taking in $11 million playing at 629 theaters. That represents an 88 percent increase over last week’s total, when “Precious” was in only 174 locations.

Other notable performances included Universal comedy “Couples Retreat,” which remained in the top 10 (eighth place) for the seventh consecutive weekend. The film, written by and starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, took in another $2 million and has now exceeded $105 million domestically.