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‘Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2’ falls short of franchise record

By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — In the end, “Breaking Dawn” couldn’t generate as much light as “New Moon.”

The fifth and final “Twilight” film hit theaters this past weekend and did incredible business, grossing $141.3 million domestically, according to an estimate Sunday from distributor Summit Entertainment. Although that is a fantastic start for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the film came in just shy of the franchise opening-weekend record held by 2009’s “New Moon” with $142.8 million.

Still, the final “Twilight” film could easily become the highest-grossing domestic film in the “Twilight” franchise, surpassing the record $300.5 million the third film, “Eclipse,” made in 2010. Those Twi-hards who saw the new movie over the weekend loved it, assigning it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. With word of mouth strong, it seems likely that many of the series’ young fans will go back to see the movie again in the coming weeks.

Like all of its predecessors, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” attracted a heavily female audience: 79 percent of the crowd were women, and half were younger than 25.

The film’s release marks the end of what has been a cultural phenomenon since 2008, when the first adaptation of the novels by Stephenie Meyer became a surprise hit and catapulted its young stars, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, to stratospheric levels of fame. The final movie, which has received the best reviews of any film in the franchise, sees newlywed vampire couple Edward and Bella struggling to protect their child from an evil vampire clan.

Fans began rushing out to see the finale late Thursday, when the movie debuted in roughly 2,000 theaters nationwide and proceeded to collect $30.4 million by Friday morning. Summit, which spent $120 million on the film’s production budget, opened the movie slightly before midnight to try to get a few hours of extra business from moviegoers. However, the move didn’t generate too many extra ticket sales; 2010’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” grossed $30 million from midnight screenings alone.

The film’s release was met with both excitement and sadness, as fans across the country mourned the end of a movie series that has been with many of them through pivotal years of their lives.

“I hate to (compare) it to ‘Harry Potter,’ because that series was so different, but I felt the same way when that ended — sad that there were no more to look forward to,” said Michelle Vickery, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student who saw the movie Friday morning near her school. “The other movies in the ‘Twilight’ series have been a bit cheesy — everything’s so dramatic. So I wasn’t expecting much because the acting hasn’t been the best. But I really enjoyed this. I wasn’t cringing, thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ ”

Debanti Sengupta, a 28-year-old who became a fan of the franchise after watching the earlier films on DVD, said she would remember the series by its first installment — not its last.

“The original ‘Twilight’ will always be far and away the best in the franchise,” said Sengupta, who saw the new film in San Jose, Calif. “I thought this one was entertaining, but it wasn’t, like, amazing cinema.”

The movie played well across the country, with early numbers indicating that two of the top-grossing theaters nationwide were part of Utah’s Megaplex Theaters, which holds special fan events to give moviegoers incentives to turn up on opening weekend. The final film also sold many tickets in El Paso, Texas; Times Square and in downtown Los Angeles,.

The picture also opened in 61 foreign territories and grossed a whopping $199.6 million. It performed best in the United Kingdom and Spain, to which the cast traveled for special red-carpet premieres. With such strong early receipts, it seems likely that “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” will ultimately surpass the $430.9 million that “Part 1” grossed abroad last year — a record for the franchise.

As a result of the movie’s excellent business domestically, North American ticket sales overall were up 11 percent compared with the same weekend last year, according to Box office receipts and attendance have both risen roughly 5 percent compared with 2011, and those figures could rise with a strong lineup of holiday films, including “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Miserables.”

Another film that did well over the weekend was Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which expanded from 11 theaters to 1,775 and grossed $21 million.

Though the movie had earned a strong per-theater average in limited release a week earlier, this weekend was the true test of whether the period drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis could attract a broader audience. The well-reviewed picture still attracted an older audience — 67 percent were over the age of 35 — but its weekend gross bodes well for its commercial prospects in the coming weeks.

The film about the 16th president is being distributed by Walt Disney Studios but was financed by DreamWorks Studios, 20th Century Fox, Participant Media and Dune Entertainment for $65 million. The movie, which received an “A” CinemaScore from opening weekend moviegoers, is already the subject of heavy Oscar buzz.

Meanwhile, “Skyfall” became the most successful movie in the James Bond franchise — not adjusting for inflation. This past weekend the film starring Daniel Craig reached a phenomenal worldwide total of $669.2 million, easily surpassing the $599.2 million global tally held by 2006’s “Casino Royale.”

After debuting in the top position at the domestic box office last weekend, “Skyfall” saw its ticket sales fall 53 percent to $41.5 million over the weekend, raising its 10-day total to $161.3 million.

The success of the film has helped propel Sony Pictures — which partially financed and is distributing the film — to its biggest year ever at the worldwide box office. The studio has so far this year sold more than $4 billion worth of tickets globally.

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