Box Office Enters ‘Twilight’ Zone
The pre-Thanksgiving weekend saw the dawn of a hit literary-based franchise in Twilight, instead of the continuation of a literary-based blockbuster series, since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's departure from the date to next summer. Between the openings of Twilight and Bolt and significant holdovers Quantum of Solace and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the overall box office was up over the comparable pre-Thanksgiving timeframes from 2007 and 2006. However, it was down from 2005 when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opened.

Living up to the hype, Twilight wooed a dreamy $69.6 million on approximately 6,000 screens at 3,419 locations, drawing more attendees than Interview with a Vampire's debut to claim the biggest vampire weekend on record. The opening for the $37 million book adaptation ranks as the fifth highest grossing of November, behind the three Harry Potter releases of the month and The Incredibles.

Emblematic of its fervent constituency, Twilight set records for opening weekend front-loadedness (among non-holiday, nationwide releases). More than half of the movie's weekend gross was posted on Friday alone, $36 million, and the Friday-to-Saturday drop was 41 percent, steeper than Sex and the City's 34 percent Friday-to-Saturday drop. According to distributor Summit Entertainment's exit polling, 75 percent of Twilight's audience was female and 55 percent was under 25 years old. The overall grade from moviegoer pollster CinemaScore was an "A-," same as Bolt, further indicating that the movie's gross pattern was driven more by a fan rush than word-of-mouth.

"There was a number thrown around that if everyone who bought the book saw the movie we would open to $50 million," said Richard Fay, President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution for Summit Entertainment. "What is somewhat surprising is that 45 percent [of the audience] was over 25. The young girls who supported the book passed it on to their moms, and we're trying to get the word out to the young boys." Mr. Fay described Twilight's appeal as "a good, clean, Romeo and Juliet love story that young girls—and boys as well—can relate to." "It's not over the top," he added. "It's believable for what it is. It's all about to the uncertainty of maturing and the decisions you have to make."

In a single weekend, Twilight out-grossed Summit's five previous releases combined, and the distributor/production company quickly announced that that the sequel, New Moon, is officially in the works. Summit also generated exposure for two of its upcoming major releases. Attached to Twilight were trailers for the special effects-laden thrillers Push, featuring Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning and opening Feb. 6, and Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas and starring Nicolas Cage, due Mar. 20.

Ranking third behind a deflated Quantum of Solace, Walt Disney Pictures' Bolt dashed in with $26.2 million on around 6,200 screens at 3,651 sites, a solid start considering it's the type of picture that fares well over Thanksgiving and the fact that movies with similar subject matter, like Underdog and Firehouse Dog, have packed much less bite. Despite recalling Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, Bolt had to overcome its story set-up of a lost television dog star. Any hint of Hollywood navel-gazing tends to put a crimp on grosses and it's been years since there was a popular dog drama on TV, hampering credibility. Still, Bolt's opening was slightly higher than Disney's last non-Pixar animated feature, Meet the Robinsons.

"We always looked at this as a ten-day weekend," said Chris LeRoy, Disney's Senior Vice President General Sales Manager. "On Monday, 15 percent of kids will be out of school, and 53 percent by Wednesday." Mr. LeRoy did not believe that the recent release of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa had much impact. "Twilight had more of an effect on us," he said. "It played to 10-14 year-olds as first choice, and I think Bolt will be their choice when they return to theaters over the holiday." Disney's research indicated that 52 percent of the audience was female, 60 percent was under 25, and 75 percent could be counted as parents and their children.

A major part of Bolt's marketing was 3-D. Launched with a record 982 3-D presentations, the picture made an estimated $10.3 million in the format, accounting for 39 percent of the $26.2 million weekend. The 3-D share was higher than Meet the Robinsons but lower than Journey to the Center of the Earth.


• 11/24 - 'Quantum,' 'Madagascar' Take Pre-Thanksgiving Tumble...

• 11/21 - 'Twilight' Tingles at Midnight