'New Moon' has monster opening weekend

Vampire sequel sinks teeth into $140.7 million

Talk about bloody good boxoffice.

Summit Entertainment's vampire-romance sequel "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" opened even bigger than projected with an estimated $140.7 million in domestic grosses. That represented the third-best bow ever, after 2008's "The Dark Knight" ($158.4 million) and 2007's "Spider-Man 3" ($151.1 million) (more here on decade's top grossing films).

Some had wondered whether the fanged phenom would fall precipitously from its outsized first-day grosses. But Saturday boxoffice for "New Moon" proved strong, warranting bullish Sunday estimates.

"New Moon" rung up $72.7 million Friday -- the biggest single-day tally ever, including a record $26.3 million from opening midnight performances -- then sunk its teeth into $43.2 million, with Summit penciling in $24.8 million for its Sunday tally. The pic's Saturday-over-Friday decline amounted to a manageable 41%, including the outsized witching-hour coin.

Any remaining skeptics will focus on prospects for the soph session for the female-fueled sequel. But many students and adults will have the day off on Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday, making next weekend a more lucrative boxoffice session than most and surely boosting second-frame grosses for "New Moon."

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Elsewhere this weekend, Warner Bros.' Sandra Bullock starrer "The Blind Side" opened in second place with a rousing $34.5 million performance that shrugged off predictions the feel-good pigskin pic would get blindsided by vampires. Sony's PG-rated animated feature "Planet 51" landed in fourth place with a soft $12.6 million launch.

The frame's most notable holdover title -- Sony's scifi actioner "2012," which topped domestic rankings a week earlier -- fell 59% in its second outing for $26.5 million in third place and a 10-day cume of $108.2 million. Focus Features' British comedy "Pirate Radio" sunk from the top rankings on a 50% drop from week-earlier grosses, to $1.4 million and a $5.2 million cume.

Lionsgate continued to expand platforming phenom "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" -- upping the gritty drama by 453 theaters to a barely wide 627 -- to fetch $11 million in sixth place for a $21.4 million cume.

Collectively, the weekend's top 10 finishers gathered a whopping $245.6 million, or 59% more than top performers in the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

In a limited bow, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" in two New York locations to grab $107,597, or a mind-bending $53,799 per engagement ahead of the Penelope Cruz starrer's expansion into L.A. on Dec. 11.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, SPC added 183 playdates for a total of 303 for its well-reviewed drama "An Education" and grossed $915,182, or an acceptable $3,020 per engagement, with a $4.4 million cume.

And Oscilloscope expanded romantic drama "The Messenger" -- starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton -- by 27 theaters for a total 33 to gross $120,000, or a pleasing $3,870, per venue, with a cume of $180,000.

"New Moon" focuses extensively on Taylor Lautner's werewolf character and less on Robert Pattinson's vampire persona than the first pic. But it upped production values for sequel director Chris Weitz ("About a Boy"), and that helped broaden the audience a bit for the second "Twilight" pic.

Opening audiences skewed 80% female, with 50% of patrons under age 25. That was a tad more evenly split on gender than with "Twilight" and an older audience mix than with the franchise original.

"We had a fairly good indication of its prospects from the midnight shows," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said. "To sustain itself the way it did through Saturday was unpredictable. But needless to say, we're very happy."

Repeat business already has kicked in, based on anecdotal evidence of repeat support from the pic's youngest female fans. Adapted from another of Stephenie Meyer's book series for teens and tweens, "New Moon" opened more than twice as well as the franchise original, which unspooled over the same frame last year with $69.6 million en route to registering $191.5 million overall domestically.

Summit has scheduled a second sequel -- "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" -- for release June 30.

Production costs on "New Moon" totaled an estimated $50 million, or $13 million more than for "Twilight." The sequel has rung up $118.1 million from its simultaneous bow in 25 foreign markets.

Meantime, "Blind Side" gave its topliner a new personal best, surpassing Bullock's $33.6 million bow with June's "The Proposal." "Blind Side" audiences skewed 59% female, with 75% of patrons aged 25 or older.

Warner distributed for producer Alcon Entertainment, which marked its biggest opening ever.

"It's a wonderful thing that after 10 years in business, Alcon can have a hit movie like this," Alcon co-president Broderick Johnson said. "We've worked very hard to get there."

Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said Bullock pics tend to be leggy, so the big bow means "this movie is well on its way."

"Planet 51" attracted audiences comprised 86% of family patrons. Sony distributed for produced Ilion Animation, with Sony distribution president Rory Bruer predicting the pic would play well through the upcoming holiday frame.

Looking ahead, three films open in wide release Wednesday, just ahead of Thanksgiving. Warners unspools martial arts actioner "Ninja Assassin," Disney sends out John Travolta-toplined comedy "Old Dogs," and the Weinstein Co. revs up literary adaptation "The Road."