From left to right, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. (Summit Entertainment )
Edward and Bella are set to take the second-biggest bite of the year out of the box office.
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" will probably sell about $90 million worth of tickets this weekend in the U.S. and Canada and could exceed $100 million, according to surveys of potential filmgoers, making it the second-largest debut of the year behind "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which collected $109 million its first weekend.
The first "Twilight" movie opened to $69.6 million on the same weekend last year. Since then, interest in the series has only grown, driven in part by its DVD, the year's top-seller. Pre-release research shows that adult women are more interested in "New Moon" than its predecessor, while teenage and tween girls are as fanatical as ever.
Industry expectations are running so high for "New Moon" that it could become one of the few movies this year, along with mega-hits such as "Paranormal Activity" and "The Hangover," to earn a profit just from its ticket sales and not have to wait for DVD and other post-theatrical markets, as is usual.
Summit Entertainment spent just under $50 million to produce the movie.
Early returns from some foreign countries where "New Moon" opened Thursday were phenomenal, already totaling $10.9 million.
According to Summit, opening-day grosses in France were $4.4 million, almost four times as much as the debut of "Twilight." In Italy and Spain, it had the third-highest Wednesday opening ever, collecting $2.7 million and $2.2 million, respectively. Midnight screenings in Australia grossed $1.6 million, a record for the country.
Total receipts from the 25 international territories where "New Moon" is opening this weekend will add tens of millions more to its weekend total. Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom were particularly profitable markets for the first "Twilight" movie.
As with the 2008 picture, early showings of "New Moon" are expected to be lucrative. Online ticket sellers Fandango and MovieTickets.com report that "New Moon" is the No. 1 advance seller of all time, a reflection not only of overall interest but also of the intense desire of many fans to see the picture on its opening weekend.
"New Moon" could easily break the $22.2-million record for midnight screenings set this summer by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." A total of 3,514 theaters, 87% of the 4,024 total playing it this weekend, played it late Thursday night.
Midnight ticket sales will get a boost from Summit's decision to re-release the original "Twilight" in 2,057 theaters, about half as many as will start showing "New Moon" today. Many theaters created a double-screening event in which fans came to watch "Twilight" and stayed for "New Moon," generating even more money for the franchise in the process.
The total Friday gross will probably be huge, followed by a big drop Saturday. The first "Twilight" saw ticket sales decline 41% the day after it launched. It also experienced a substantial 62% drop on its second weekend despite the fact that the Friday after Thanksgiving is a holiday for many.
If the new movie follows the same path as the first, however, it's all but certain to ultimately gross more than $200 million in the U.S. and Canada and about the same amount in foreign countries.