Final ‘Twilight’ may break franchise record with $150 million debut

Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — It will be the end of an era for many young women at the box office this weekend as the “Twilight” finale hits theaters. It could gross more than any other movie in the vampire franchise.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the fifth and final installment in the massively popular series based on Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novels, is expected to debut with around $150 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

That would be the biggest opening ever for a movie in the series, whose biggest domestic hit to date is 2009’s “New Moon,” which launched with $142.8 million.

The final movie has stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart reprising their roles as Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, who has been reborn as a vampire. As they seek to lead a peaceful life with their child, their existence is threatened by a plot from a rival vampire clan.

Roughly 2,000 fans camped out to watch Pattinson, Stewart and co-star Taylor Lautner walk the red carpet at the film’s Los Angeles premiere Monday at the Nokia Theatre. The fan fervor for the final chapter is clearly at an all-time high, with Fandango reporting Thursday that 92 percent of the day’s ticket sales were for “Breaking Dawn — Part 2.”

The last “Twilight” picture has also received the best reviews of any movie in the series. On Thursday, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” had notched a 65 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with a 25 percent grade for “Part 1.” The fourth movie debuted with $138.1 million domestically last November and ultimately sold a massive $709.9 million worldwide.

Whereas “Part 1” hit theaters at midnight Friday, “Part 2” was scheduled to open in around 2,000 locations at 10 p.m. Thursday. Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment, which spent $120 million to produce the film, decided to release the movie a few hours earlier to capitalize on business from moviegoers who prefer not to head to the multiplex in the middle of the night.

The four “Twilight” films have collected $2.5 billion worldwide. The series is currently the 10th biggest franchise ever, behind properties such as “Star Wars,” “James Bond” and “Spider-Man.” Although “Twilight” has certainly become a huge cultural phenomenon, the franchise is nowhere near as successful at the box office as the “Harry Potter” series. Composed of eight films, the series about a boy wizard is the highest-grossing franchise of all time with $7.7 billion in global ticket sales.

After a strong opening in 11 theaters last weekend, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” will play in 1,500 locations nationwide this weekend. The movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president of the United States, attracted an older audience last weekend, as 67 percent of those who saw it were over 35.

This weekend will test whether the well-reviewed period saga can appeal to a wide enough crowd to make the $65 million-budgeted movie a hit.

In limited release, the dramedy “Silver Linings Playbook” will open in 16 theaters in major markets including Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. The film stars Bradley Cooper as a man with bipolar disorder who finds a complicated connection with an idiosyncratic woman played by Jennifer Lawrence. The film, financed by the Weinstein Co. for $21 million, has been embraced by critics as well as audiences since its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It will expand to around 400 cinemas by Thanksgiving.

Another buzzed-about title, “Anna Karenina,” will also bow in 16 theaters. The latest adaptation of Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s classic 1870s novel stars Keira Knightley, a veteran of the period drama genre. Generating mixed reviews, the picture was directed by her longtime collaborator Joe Wright, with whom Knightley worked on both “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement.”

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