"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" was on course to break two box-office records in one day.
The second installment of the vampire saga broke the record for midnight ticket sales Thursday night and was expected to record the biggest single-day sales ever at the box office Friday evening.
Gross receipts from midnight shows in the U.S. and Canada totaled $26.3 million, distributor Summit Entertainment reported Friday morning.
On Friday evening, four people at competing studios who were following box-office returns said the movie was all but certain to gross more than $70 million by the end of the day. The previous record for single-day domestic ticket sales was $67.2 million, set by "The Dark Knight" in 2008.
Though the debut day for "New Moon" was unprecedented, the full opening weekend will probably be merely massive. Ticket sales for the first "Twilight" film, which opened on the same weekend last year, plunged 41% on the Saturday after it opened. "New Moon" will probably see an even bigger drop, given the massive amount of interest that helped it set a record as the biggest pre-seller on online ticketing services Fandango and MovieTickets.com.
Nonetheless, a total weekend gross of more than $110 million is all but certain and more than $120 million is very possible. That would give "New Moon" the biggest domestic weekend gross for any film this year, the biggest for an opening outside the summer movie season, and one of the top five of all time, not accounting for inflation.
Ticket sales from the 25 other countries where "New Moon" is opening this weekend will almost certainly push the worldwide weekend gross to more than $150 million.
Summit spent only $50 million to make "New Moon," including tax incentives from Canada, where it was produced. Even including marketing costs, the picture is certain to be profitable based on ticket sales alone, even before Summit starts making money from DVD and other post-theatrical markets.
Studios usually keep about half the revenue a movie collects from theatrical ticket sales.
Summit is expected to report an official total for Friday ticket sales this morning and an estimate for the three-day weekend Sunday.
Ticket sales for other movies opening this weekend were looking strong late Friday as well.
"The Blind Side," starring Sandra Bullock, will compete with "2012," which debuted last week, to be the No. 2 movie this weekend. Based on early ticket sales, it will probably gross more than $20 million through Sunday.
Times staff writer Claudia Eller contributed to this report.