Twilight Hits U.S. Box Office,Movie Review

November 24, 2008

twilight6002LOS ANGELES — “Twilight” took a giant bite out of the North American box office over the weekend, selling an estimated $70.6 million in tickets and proving that a wholesome love story can still turn out a huge young-adult audience.

The movie, based on the first in Stephenie Meyer’s hugely popular series of vampire romance novels, was expected to deliver strong results for Summit Entertainment. A frenzy among teenage girls marked the picture’s arrival in theaters, with more than 1,000 screenings across the country selling out days in advance. The opening-weekend gross beat even bullish expectations. Box-office analysts had predicted the film would be lucky to reach $60 million because of limited appeal among male moviegoers.

“Twilight” is the story of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a sullen but sweet high-school student who falls in love with a tender vampire (Robert Pattinson) who is on a no-human-blood diet.

“As we saw the results of the first midnight showings, we figured we had a tiger by the tail,” said Richard Fay, president for domestic distribution for Summit.

In a statement Ms. Meyer said, “I don’t think any other author has had a more positive experience with the makers of her movie adaptation than I have had.”

“Twilight,” directed by Catherine Hardwicke, instantly joined one of the most exclusive clubs in Hollywood: movies that earn a profit within their first three days of domestic release. The film cost $37 million to produce and an estimated $30 million to market. And there is money still left to be counted. International ticket sales look promising — Ms. Meyer’s books have sold 17 million copies worldwide — and expectations for the DVD are huge.

Experts said “Twilight” could struggle with what movie executives call playability, or the ability to maintain box-office heat after the core fan base has moved on. Mr. Fay said he hoped strong word of mouth among mothers would keep ticket sales solid.

Summit, an upstart studio led by the co-chairmen Patrick Wachsberger and Robert G. Friedman, announced plans on Saturday to begin production of “New Moon,” an adaptation of the second of Ms. Meyer’s novels. A Summit spokesman said that it was too early to say when “New Moon” would arrive in theaters.

“Twilight” trampled the competition, most notably “Bolt,” an expensive animated film from the Walt Disney Company. That movie, featuring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus and overseen by the Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, sold a disappointing $27 million in tickets.

Disney had hoped “Bolt” would signal a clear turnaround at its storied animation department, which has labored mightily in recent years. The company says it still thinks it can eventually put “Bolt” in the win column. “Word of mouth should bode well over the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond,” said Heidi Trotta, a studio spokeswoman.

In second place, behind “Twilight,” at the box office was “Quantum of Solace,” the latest James Bond installment (from MGM and Sony Pictures). It sold $27.4 million in tickets for a new domestic total of $109.5 million. “Bolt” had to settle for third place, with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (DreamWorks Animation) in the fourth position with $16 million ($137.4 million). “Role Models” (Universal Pictures) rounded out the Top Five with $7.2 million ($48 million).

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