'Eclipse's' early release sets sales record


It may not eclipse the opening-weekend performance of franchise predecessors, but Summit Entertainment's vampire-romance threequel "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" is off to a bloody good -- and record -- start.

"Eclipse" fetched more than $30 million in estimated boxoffice from more than 4,000 domestic theaters programming midnight Tuesday performances, an unprecedented tally. The witching-hour coin will be lumped in with Wednesday grosses.

A first sequel -- "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" -- opened with $142.8 million in November, en route to registering $296.6 million in total U.S. and Canadian coin. Opening with midnight Thursday performances, "New Moon" rose to a then-record $26.3 million in witching-hour loot and a record $72.7 million in first-day Friday boxoffice.

The original "Twilight" unspooled in November 2008 with a first-weekend haul of $69.6 million and a total domestic cume of $192.8 million.

Prior to "New Moon," the record for midnight boxoffice was held by Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which rung up $22.2 million from its earliest performances.

Special exhibitor Imax, which is showing "Eclipse" in 192 domestic locations, said the threequel sunk its teeth into a record $1 million-plus from Imax venues offering midnight performances. The tally eclipsed a then-record Imax midnight haul of $959,000 by Paramount's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" from June 2009.

"Eclipse" is expected to ring up more than $150 million through Monday, playing in a record 4,410 total locations. The coming weekend is considered a four-day theatrical frame, with Independence Day falling on Sunday and most U.S. workers marking a holiday on Monday.

In comparing the "Eclipse" debut with its franchise predecessors, industryites will be watching the threequel's Wednesday-through-Friday grosses. But domestic rankings for the Independence Day holiday weekend will be based on Friday-through-Monday boxoffice.

Many believe "Eclipse" will have scooped so much boxoffice cream off the top of its opening by Friday, that its first-weekend tally will fall well short of $100 million. That still would top weekend rankings, with Paramount's 3D family adventure "The Last Airbender" expected to open at No. 2 with about $50 million forecast in a Thursday-through-Monday debut.

Directed by David Slade ("30 Days of Night"), "Eclipse" features Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart reprising roles of vampire, werewolf and anguished love interest, respectively.
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