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Weekend Box Office: Fangs a Lot

Posted by Ty Burr  November 23, 2009 08:59 AM

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bellajacob.jpg
Can you feel the passion?

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" benefited, I think, from the source's near-total permeation throughout an entire segment of the population. In other words, if you're a teenage girl, you had to see the movie this weekend, to weigh in, to pay tribute, to root for vampire-boy or wereguy (oh, sorry, "shape-shifter") -- and. most important, to not be caught looking like a Loser Loser Double Loser come Monday morning. So I'm guessing that the actual percentage of all American women age 12 to 18 attending "New Moon" was as close to 100% as theaters would hold. I wish that many people voted in elections.

Anyway, records broke or were threatened: Largest first-day haul ever ($72.7 million); best-selling midnight showing ever ($26.3 million); biggest fourth-quarter opening ever; third largest opening weekend, period ($147 million, bumping "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" but still behind "The Dark Knight" and "Spider-Man 3"). Seventh-largest opening worldwide when you factor in the $118 million "New Moon" made overseas. Oh, and the weekend overall was Hollywood's second biggest in history, since the "The Blind Side" opened with $34.5 million, the best ever for a sports drama and a Sandra Bullock vehicle. My sense is that mom and dad dropped the teenagers off at the vampire flick, the kids off at "Planet 51," and went to "Blind Side" on their own.

But back to "New Moon" -- how pumped was the target audience? About half the movie's opening weekend grosses came on Friday night; I'm surprised ushers weren't trampled in the melee. The sequel doubled the grosses for the original "Twilight" on each day of the weekend, and this is starting to look like standard operating procedure: If you can plant the franchise successfully in the first film, you can really reap the benefits in the second. Worked for "The Dark Knight," among others, and worked here; indie studio Summit took the gamble when the major companies wouldn't and is reaping the rewards. Another token of "New Moon"'s must-see factor: a $35,000 per-house average -- at over 4,000 theaters.

Not doing so hot was "Planet 51" with an okay $12.6 million -- trailers correctly positioned as antic CGI kiddie fodder without the manic invention of DreamWorks product or the high-end elegance of Pixar. But "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (you can just call it "Precious") continued on its canny stealth opening, widening from 174 theaters to 629 and holding on to a super $17,000 per-theater average. It's at $20 million total gross now, remarkable when you consider the downbeat (though ultimately inspirational) subject matter and lack of stars. The irony is that most of the young women swooning over Edward and Jacob would be blown away by "Precious" -- if the industry promoted it even half as heavily as "New Moon."

More numbers from Box Office Mojo and Movie City News.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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