'New Moon' poised for big boxoffice bow

'Twilight' sequel projected to rake in more than $85 million

Fans have been mooning over all things "Twilight" since the vampire-romance film bowed so bloody well exactly one year ago.

So it's no surprise that the sequel, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," is projected to sink its teeth into more than $85 million during its first weekend. "New Moon" rises in 4,024 locations, beginning with 3,500 performances at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Online ticketers said the Summit Entertainment sequel has run up the biggest advance sales of any film in history, with sellouts ensured for many showtimes throughout the weekend. Higher production values and the cast's growing celebrity should help "New Moon" broaden the fanged franchise's base of support from teens and tweens to daughter-and-mom combos and even single older females.

"We know who our audience is, and it's basically females of all ages," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said. "But some of the TV spots are playing to young males, and we're getting some response to that."

Like "Twilight," "New Moon" is based on one of a series of books by Stephenie Meyer and is rated PG-13, with Chris Weitz ("About a Boy") taking over helming chores and Taylor Lautner's werewolf-in-waiting character muscling aside Robert Pattinson's blood-sucking sulk for predominant screen time. A second book-based sequel, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," is scheduled for release June 30.

Produced for an estimated $37 million, "Twilight" unspooled with $69.6 million and fetched $191.5 million domestically. That cume will rise a bit with Summit rereleasing the first pic for one day only to help fuel interest in the sequel.

Some believe "New Moon" could flirt with the record set in July by Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" with $22 million in opening midnight coin. If that proves true, look for "New Moon" to threaten the magical $100 million mark through Sunday.

Toting a roughly $50 million negative cost, "New Moon" also bows this week in 25 foreign territories. Summit holds worldwide rights but is using a combination of foreign presales and local output deals for its staged international rollout of the pic.

Meanwhile, with the Summit sequel potentially sucking the life out of a diverse range of demos, Warner Bros. might find it difficult to capture the attention of some who normally might be expected to support its sports-themed Sandra Bullock starrer "The Blind Side."

A coming-of-age tale that should resonate with younger moviegoers, "Blind Side" also targets older women based on the appeal of its topliner. Will young and older females alike prove too preoccupied with the weekend buzz film to get behind Warners' lower-profile pic?

Warners executives say no.

"We're going to have a really healthy opening," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said.

Early reviews largely have been positive for "Blind Side," which is drawing a wide range of forecasts from midteen millions from industry pessimists to $20 million-plus from others.

Whatever its debut, Warners brass hopes that "Blind Side" has a leggy run typical of Bullock pics.

Situated a bit more propitiously this weekend, Sony-distributed animated feature "Planet 51" has the tots-and-parents crowd pretty much to itself.

Although Disney's 3D animated feature "A Christmas Carol" is likely to post a strong third session, the PG-rated "Planet" should play a big younger than its holiday-themed rival. Prerelease tracking surveys suggest that the "Planet" marketing has taken hold, with pic awareness decently high and an opening in the high-teen millions looking doable.

Sony is distributing for producer Ilion Animation.

Elsewhere, it will bear watching whether the vampire pic drains support from Sony's sci-fi actioner "2012," a $65 million opener last weekend. But even a 60% drop would put "2012" north of $25 million in its sophomore session, so expect the Roland Emmerich-helmed pic to finish in this frame's silver-medal position.

Also this weekend, Lionsgate drama "Precious" expands to a barely wide 600 or so theaters after two super frames in more limited release. An early kudos-season buzz title, "Precious" totes cumulative boxoffice of $9 million and counting.

On an industrywide basis, the weekend will be compared with a $165 million 2008 session topped by "Twilight." Last weekend's boxoffice marked a year-over-year industry downtick, but 2009 is outpacing last year by 4.4%, at $8.69 billion, according to Nielsen EDI.