10:25 AM UPDATE: Final North America theater count for New Moon: 4,024. Estimated theater count for midnight shows: 3,500. Final theater count for Twilight re-issue: 2,057.
Of course Summit Entertainment is lowering expectations, privately saying that the Twilight sequel will do $85 million from 4,000+ theaters on Friday, including Thursday midnights. That’s despite all the hype and sold out screenings. “Because hard comps haven’t seen something like this,” a studio insider tells me. But my quick survey of box office analysts shows that Hollywood is expecting New Moon to do Iron Man numbers, or $100M. Iron Man, too, was a highly anticipated pic with a built-in audience because of branded material opening on a 3-day weekend (albeit the start of the summer movie season) playing in 4,000+ theaters. And Iron Man debuted in May 2008 with $98.6M from 4,154 runs. So the thinking is that New Moon can do that, too. It’s certainly going to do better than than the original Twilight‘s $69.6M opening from 3,649 dates in November 2008. But Summit keeps pointing to this weekend’s crowded marketplace even though I and others think those movies which are opening or holdovers just aren’t competing for the same filmgoers. Predictions are for Roland Emmerich’s disaster hit 2012 to do another $30M-$35M from Friday through Sunday if it drops the expected 60%, Sandra Bullock’s Blindside should debut to low $20sM, the toon Planet 51 is expected to open in the high teens/low $20sM, and A Christmas Carol has shown a strong hold. “Can the marketplace expand enough to establish New Moon over $85M?” a Summit insider wondered aloud with me. Yes, according to the analysts who are more concerned about New Moon attracting males, any males, beyond its core of tween, teen, and older females. To that end, Summit has recently been showing a new TV spot featuring more of the werewolf-on-werewolf fang fights than Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson. “The midnights are going to be enormous. What remains to be seen is if the audience has broadened for New Moon or if the urgency is just that much greater,” one rival studio exec explains to me. “I have heard estimates all the way up to $120M for the opening weekend, but I just don’t buy it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it pushes the century mark. But it’s hard for me to say it goes over that mark.” Stay tuned.