twilight_galleryteaser2.jpg bolt_galleryteaser.jpg

FRIDAY 6 PM: I think these numbers are way too early, but studios are estimating Friday’s Twilight take at $30+M based on matinees and maybe $65M for the weekend. “It’s taking that extra right out of Bolt which will be more like $30M,” one mogul emails me. The first box office record has already been broken by girl power: this is the biggest opening for a female director. Catherine Hardwicke is easily beating Mimi Leder’s $41.1M for 1998’s Deep Impact. (But with an asterisk since these figures aren’t adjusted for inflation, ticket prices, etc.)

FRIDAY AM: Summit Entertainment sources now tell me Twilight midnight screenings made “north of $7 million” Thursday. That’s a big number. Some updates on the Twilight zone phenomenon: major online ticket-seller      Fandango has been selling 5 Twilight tickets per second as of early this morning. According to an online poll, 34% of moviegoers said they will take off a few hours from school or the office today to see the pic. It’s Fandango’s fastest-selling film since The Dark Knight in July of this year. It now occupies the #3 spot on Fandango’s list of Top Advance Ticket-Sellers, surpassing the Harry Potter, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings movies. (Only Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and The Dark Knight remain in the #1 and #2 spots, respectively.) Twilight also finished in the No. 5 slot on’s Top-5 Presellers of All-Time, one spot ahead of Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert and one behind The Dark Knight.

THURSDAY PM: With thousands of sold-out shows because of pre-sales, Summit Entertainment field teams weren’t expecting any massive lines for Thursday’s midnight screenings. As a Summit distribution exec reminded, “The days of lining up hours before are gone due the Internet. ” Boy, was he wrong! I’m told that in Phoenix, Arizona, 4 major local TV news crews did live evening broadcasts because of the long lines for the midnight shows for Twilight at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace. And footage was even shot of the massive audience sitting in the sold-out Cine Capri, one of the largest theaters in the city. In Cincinnati, Ohio, the crowd began forming over four hours early for the midnight screening at the Showcase Florence, which sold out two houses for the midnight screening and were working on a third. I’m told almost everyone attending had some kind of store bought or homemade Twilight T-shirt.

I first pegged major fangirl interest in Twilight back in July. Then I projected the vampire pic as a low-cost blockbuster back in October. So it feels anticlimactic that Summit Entertainment finally released its holiday tentpole at the midnight showings in many of this weekend’s 3,419 booked theaters. Much has been made of the fact that studios passed on this project. But if 1 1/2 quadrant pics like this (appealing to tween/teen girls and their moms) didn’t fulfill the majors’ requirements for broad audience appeal, then the mini-majors would have nothing to release. And don’t forget how many successful book series have garnered studio greenlights only to wind up as film flops instead of the next film franchises. Not to mention the exhausted vampire premise. That said, all my box office gurus are gleeful that Twilight will open to a $50+M and perhaps even a $60+M weekend. One studio bigwig skeptically noted to me that “$60+M would be bigger than Sex and the City‘s opening. But, in this business, anything is possible, right?”

In terms of pre-sales, Twilight should break into the Top 5 on the list of Top 10 Advance Ticket-Sellers, covering all theatrical releases in Fandango’s 8-year history. The pic also made into’s Top 10. Hundreds and then thousands of shows sold out day by day, accounting for 94% of Fandango’s daily ticket sales by mid-week. Here’s what bodes well: 83% of respondents to a Fandango Twilight survey claim they will see the movie more than once. And 25% claim they will see Twilight with their moms or daughters. Also, 67% contend that Twilight’s most appealing element is its “love story” while only 18% selected the “vampire lore”.  The teen and tween demographic of fickle fangirls have flexed their box office power in 2008, helping Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour and High School Musical 3: Senior Year become big pre-sellers like Twilight.

Disney’s Bolt has been somewhat overshadowed by the phenomenon of the Twilight Zone. The solid family fare will have the largest digital 3D release ever, opening at approximately 979 Digital 3D locations. With the studio confident the movie plays to everyone, Bolt opens in 3,651 theaters and should debut to a $35M weekend. “It’s clear that Twilight will be the No. 1 opening movie,” a Disney insider tells me. “But we look at our opening as a 10-day event because of the Thanksgiving holiday being so good for family entertainment.” Last Saturday, the studio sneaked the pic at around 880 theaters playing at about 73% capacity “which should bode well for word of mouth.”

After all the Bond hoopla, it’s worth mentioning that Oscar-touted Slumdog Millionaire expands into 32 venues. The Fox Searchlight pic opened last Wednesday on 10 screens and grossed $32,984.  This Wednesday on the same 10 screens it grossed $50,659, which is a 54% increase in the identical theaters. “
As one studio insider tells me, “That NEVER happens. As a point of reference, even Juno last year didn’t do this.  We opened Juno on Wednesday December 5th and grossed $52,643 on 7 screens.  We were amazed the following Wednesday when Juno grossed $47,532, which was only a 10% drop from it’s opening day. To go UP 54% is staggering. ” As for the pic’s previous weekend, it was the best of 2008 for a specialized film with the highest per screen average of the year, beating Changeling and Rachel At The Wedding.