Nearly 17 months after Eclipse became the Twilight series' highest-grossing movie, part one of the two-part series conclusion reaches theaters all over the world and it should be in line for one of the highest openings ever. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 opens at 4,061 theaters, which is up from New Moon's 4,024 locations but way off from Eclipse's record-setting 4,468 venues. Meanwhile, Happy Feet Two debuts at 3,606 locations where it will attempt to woo families with children who are a bit too young for Twilight's steamy teen romance. With two major sequels and a handful of solid holdovers, this weekend should easily top the same frame last year when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 opened to $125 million.
While on the topic of Harry Potter, it is worth briefly mentioning that the comparisons that are often drawn between the boy wizard series and Twilight actually serve to downplay Twilight's accomplishments a bit. The Potter series declined from its first to third entries, while Twilight has actually earned more with each new movie. The last entry, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, made $300.5 million domestically, which is more than five out of the eight Potter movies. Considering how many more copies were sold of the Harry Potter books (Deathly Hallows's initial run was 12 million books, while Breaking Dawn's was only for 3.7 million), Twilight is in many ways a more impressive movie phenomenon in the U.S.
Breaking Dawn will attempt to once again set a new high-mark for the series, and it does have a lot working in its favor. While the longer wait between movies could have caused the Twilight fervor to die down, it so far seems like it has just resulted in more pent-up demand. Also, distributor Summit Entertainment's campaign has smartly focused on events like Bella and Edward's wedding and honeymoon and Bella's bizarre pregnancy, which are moments that fans have been eagerly anticipating for years.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened on the same weekend in 2009 and set midnight and opening day records ($26.3 million and $72.7 million, respectively; both of these records now belong to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) before finishing the weekend with a remarkable $142.8 million. Considering the trend for fourth entries to underperform, Breaking Dawn doesn't quite need to reach New Moon's levels, though all signs currently point to those numbers being reasonable targets. The bigger question is whether Breaking Dawn can top Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2's $169.2 million opening weekend record, which would be a remarkable accomplishment given Potter's final movie status and 3D boost. Aside from its domestic opening, Breaking Dawn will also reach 54 markets this weekend, including most major ones with the exception of Germany, South Korea, Japan and China.
On weekends when a movie opens to over $100 million, the other new releases usually struggle. Warner Bros. managed to buck that trend when The Blind Side debuted to $34.1 million against New Moon in 2009, and they are hoping to replicate that success two years later with Happy Feet Two. The animated sequel arrives five years after the first movie opened to $41.5 million on its way to $198 million. Unfortunately, aside from significantly competition from Breaking Dawn, Happy Feet Two has a lot of other things working against it. While penguins were all the rage back in 2006 (documentary March of the Penguins made over $77 million just a year earlier), there's not a clear sense that the animals remain as popular today. Also, aside from the addition of two krill voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, the movie looks nearly identical to its predecessor in trailers and commercials, which is probably an unfortunate side-effect of the photorealistic arctic setting.
Finally, and perhaps most damningly, Happy Feet Two follows Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2 as the third major animated sequel this year that adds 3D to the mix. While Cars 2 did score a stronger opening weekend, both Cars and Panda ultimately wound up down an average of 22 percent from their predecessors. With three other movies targeting family audiences opening the day before Thanksgiving, Happy Feet Two will likely share the same fate.
Weekend Forecast (November 18-20) 1. Breaking Dawn - $148 million 2. Happy Feet Two - $36.5 million 3. Immortals - $14.5 million (-55%) 4. Jack and Jill - $12.8 million (-49%) 5. Puss in Boots - $12.1 million (-51%)
Bar for Success Breaking Dawn Part 1 needs to at least get close to New Moon's $142.8 million, though it should get a pass around $130 million. As it's only the second movie in its series, Happy Feet Two should be held to a slightly-higher standard—it ought to top its predecessor's $41.5 million debut.
Long-Term Prospects Breaking Dawn Part 1 doesn't mark a major shift one way or the other in quality from previous entries, and it should therefore decline at a similar rate to New Moon. Happy Feet Two, on the other hand, isn't nearly as original as the first one, and also faces tons of competition for family audiences over Thanksgiving weekend, and therefore won't hold up as well as the original.