Amped vamps

Teens, tweens drive 'Twilight' to $70 million

Summit Entertainment's vampire film "Twilight" was a tweens-and-teens phenomenon during the weekend, sinking its teeth into an estimated $70.6 million in a full-blooded bow that quickly spurred plans for a sequel.

The latest James Bond entry, "Quantum of Solace," from Sony and MGM, fell 59% in its sophomore session yet still registered $27.4 million to grab second place and shape a 10-day cume of $109.5 million. But Disney's animated feature "Bolt" seemed bolted to the starting blocks by Friday's intense preoccupation with "Twilight," and the family comedy debuted with just $27 million in third place.

Industrywide, the weekend marked a 4% improvement compared with the same frame a year earlier with $169 million in collective coin, according to Nielsen. That makes eight of the past nine weekends that industry tallies have beaten their year-over-year comparisons.

Year-to-date, 2008 is 3% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $8.52 billion.

Elsewhere this weekend, limited-release prestige titles plied platform campaigns amid gathering awards-season interest.

Fox Searchlight added 22 playdates for a total of 32 for Danny Boyle's well-reviewed "Slumdog Millionaire" and rang up $993,606. That represented a whopping $31,050 per theater and pushed cume to $1.6 million for the dramedy about an Indian game show contestant.

Miramax added 386 locations for a total of 406 for its Holocaust drama "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" — another awards hopeful — and grossed $1.7 million, or a pleasing $4,121 per site, with a $2.7 million cume.

Sony Pictures Classics added 31 theaters for a total of 111 for Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" and grossed $342,971, or an acceptable $3,090, with a $1.6 million cume.

And IFC Films expanded its French-language Catherine Deneuve starrer "A Christmas Tale" by 29 theaters for a total of 36 and grossed $160,400, or a sturdy $4,455 per venue, with a cume of $253,862.

Spawned by a series of vampire romance novels by Stephenie Meyer, "Twilight" boasts a youthful ensemble cast topped by Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Cam Gigandet.

Audiences for the Catherine Hardwicke-helmed drama skewed young and female, with 55% of patrons under 25 and just 25% males. Reports placed lots of moms in the PG-13 film's opening audiences, though they were outnumbered by the younger gals.

The film's $35 million-plus Friday gross was impressive enough to spur a press release Saturday trumpeting plans for the "Twilight" sequel "New Moon," based on the second in Meyer's series of best-sellers. "Twilight" scribe Melissa Rosenberg has already been working on scripts for potential sequels based on "Moon" and the third book in the series, "Eclipse."

Summit execs were huddling Sunday in an attempt to pin down release plans for "Moon," which may unspool by late 2009 but also could get a 2010 date.

"Everything kind of came together at the right moment," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said of the big "Twilight" bow. "And it all started with a great piece of material that every kid in America is aware of."

The movie's recent date change also helped its opening, Fay said. Summit moved the "Twilight" opening up three weeks from a scheduled Dec. 12 debut after Warner Bros. bounced "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from November to July.

Advance ticket sales for "Twilight" helped shape a $35 million Friday gross, with daily tallies trailing off significantly over the following two days. Summit estimates its production costs at just $37 million, so the film should quickly turn a profit for the fledgling producer/distributor and help establish its marketplace credibility.

"What this does is show we weren't stringing anybody along when we were touting 'Twilight' from the beginning of the project, because a lot of the older film buyers had been saying 'Yeah, right, a teen vampire movie,' " Fay said. "Now, we've shown that we've delivered a hit and are capable of doing it again. That's a lot."

The opening etched Hardwicke into industry record books as the best bow for a female-directed film, outpacing 1998's $41.2 million opening of Mimi Leder's "Deep Impact."

The voice cast for the PG-rated "Bolt" included John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, with Chris Williams and Byron Howard directing.

Audience demographics weren't immediately available, but assuming the usual youthful profile for most Disney films, there was little doubt many of its prospective patrons had been peeled off by "Twilight."

"There's a big, big picture in the marketplace, and there was nothing we could do about it," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "But we're looking at this as a weekend of paid previews that sets us up for the long Thanksgiving weekend."

"Bolt" — which featured roughly $11 million from 982 3-D auditoriums in its domestic tally — is the first film from Disney Animation since March 2007's "Meet the Robinsons," which opened with $25.1 million. That G-rated family adventure grossed $97.8 million overall domestically.

Looking ahead, three wide openers are set for Wednesday to take advantage of a five-day Thanksgiving frame. Fox unspools its Baz Luhrmann-helmed action adventure "Australia," starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman; Lionsgate sends out its action sequel "Transporter 3," starring Jason Statham; and Warner Bros. debuts the seasonal comedy "Four Christmases," starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon.

Also Wednesday, Focus will open Gus Van Sant's Harvey Milk biopic "Milk" in limited release. The political drama represents another of the season's closely watched prestige titles. (partialdiff)
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