Sanguine signs

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Appropriately for a vampire film, "Twilight" is selling out its upcoming midnight shows at a frightening pace. Online ticketers Fandango and MovieTickets said Monday that the Summit Entertainment film has sold out hundreds of performances four days before its Friday opening in about 3,400 locations. Fandango said it had sold out almost 700 shows — including 500 or so midnight Thursday screenings — and MovieTickets counted more than 400 sellouts of various showtimes.

"Twilight" accounted for more than 85% of presales in recent days, the ticketers said.

"In the age of big, studio tentpole pictures, it's a surprise to find such encouragingly strong advance ticket sales for an independent film with no established boxoffice stars," Fandango COO Rick Butler said. "That's a tribute to power of the blockbuster novel, solid word-of-mouth on the movie's early screenings and savvy Internet marketing."

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Lords of Dogtown"), "Twilight" is based on a tweens-and-teens literary series by Stephenie Meyer, but lots of moms also are expected to accompany kids to see the film. A blood-sucking romantic thriller — the "good" vampires don't feed on humans, allowing for interspecies love affairs — the film's youthful ensemble cast include Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Cam Gigandet.

Internet buzz has been huge, and when the cast made an appearance at Comic-Con International in the summer, the shrill response from female fans brought more than one comparison to Beatlemania. The long-gestating anticipation of the release seems to have stoked advance ticket buying, which exceeds the levels registered by recent youth magnet "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" and even the past two "Harry Potter" films.

Add it all up, and the early betting on first-weekend boxoffice for "Twilight" has gotten a bit breathless.

Many industryites believe a $40 million-plus opening is almost lock and $50 million or more quite doable, if weekend moviegoing proves robust. In some quarters, whispers of a bow north of $60 million can be heard.

"Younger, tech-savvy moviegoers are responding tremendously," MovieTickets exec vp Joel Cohen said (partialdiff)
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