Twilight Saga: New Moon grossed $72.7 million on its first full day of release. This is the biggest single day of all time, besting The Dark Knight's $67 million opening shot back in July of 2008. This is also $3 million more than Twilight grossed in its entire opening weekend. See, this is what happens when you cast Dakota Fanning! Gosh, remember when The Lost World shocked us over Memorial Day weekend of 1997 all by earning $26 million in one day and $72 million in a single weekend? Well, New Moon just grossed $26 million in just midnight and 3am showings, and it clocked $72 million in just the first 24 hours. Why do I feel like Tommy Lee Jones at the end of No Country For Old Men?
Were this any other franchise (and maybe Harry Potter), we'd presume that the $158 million Fri-Sun record set by The Dark Knight was pretty much toast. Alas, Twilight's previous opening weekend was the most front-loaded in history (it's still number two behind the Hannah Montana Movie). If we recall, the first Twilight opened with a $35 million Friday (about $7 million worth of midnight screenings) and a $69.6 million three-day take. That was a stunningly low 1.9x multiplier. Now sequels are more frontloaded than originals as a rule (has there ever been a sequel that had a less front-loaded opening weekend than its predecessor?), so one presumes that the best New Moon can hope for is another 1.9x weekend, which would equal about $138 million. That would make it the third-biggest opening weekend of all-time, behind The Dark Knight ($158 million), Spider-Man 3 ($151 million). Of course, any additional frontloading would probably knock it down below the $135 million opening sprint of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, but above the $122 million weekend for Shrek the Third. But fear not Team Edward, Team Jacob, or Team Bella (or Team Dakota), it could do a pathetic 1.5x multiplier and still top the three-day $108 million Fri-Sun gross of Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen, which would give it the biggest opening weekend of 2009. It is also guaranteed to claim the record for the biggest non-summer opening of all time. To paraphrase The Lost World: Congratulations, now you're Harry Potter.
The film grossed $26 million in midnight sneaks and $46 million in traditional Friday showtimes. Comparatively, The Dark Knight grossed $18 million in sneaks and $47 million in normal business hours. Over the last twenty years, there have been only three other pictures that have shattered the single-day record without claiming the opening weekend title. All were in the last five years, all of them opened on a Wednesday or a Thursday, and all of them were on the same pre-Memorial Day weekend. Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace opened in 1999 on a Wednesday with a record $28 million, but ended up with a Fri-Sun take of $64 million (the five-day take was a then-record $105 million). Shrek 2 opened on a Wednesday in 2004 and made just $20 million in its first two days. However, the film exploded over its Fri-Sun portion, grossing $28 million on Friday, $34 million on Sunday, and a record $44 million right in between. Alas, its three-day take was $108 million and not enough to beat Spider-Man's $114 million. Now you know why I consider Shrek 2 to be an anomaly when discussing five-day openings, as it opened with a slightly higher Wednesday than Pokemon The Movie but ended up with a $129 million five-day gross. And, finally, in 2005, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith opened on a Thursday to the first $50 million single day in history, but it's Fri-Sun portion was 'only' $108 million. Amusingly, its first actual three days -- Thurs, Fri, Sat -- actually grossed $123 million, more than Spider-Man's $114 million record at the time. But, should New Moon fail to surpass $158.4 million (and it probably will miss the mark, it has to achieve a 2.2x multiplier), it will be the first film in history to break the single-day record on a traditional Fri-Sun opening and not take the three-day title.
Still, let's not make this 'it won't break the opening weekend record' look like anything resembling failure. This adaptation of a popular young-adult book series just outgrossed The Golden Compass and The Spiderwick Chronicles in one day. It surpassed the opening weekend of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in one day. It has a plausible chance of surpassing the entire domestic gross of Prince Caspian in three or four days. I'm not going to embarrass those involved with The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising by pulling up those numbers. On second thought... oh... $8.9 million... poor Susan Cooper. As far as franchises in the last ten years, it will have one of the biggest opening-weekend upswings from first film to second film in modern history. The biggest shot of pain has to be felt at Fox, where everyone knows full well that Avatar will be happy to gross $72 million over it's entire weekend. The record for a no-star, no major franchise opening is 300, with $70 million. If you don't count the bible as a prior franchise, then The Passion of the Christ wins at $83 million. Or if you count the Bible and the cult comic book 300 as a prior source, then The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 win the day, with $68 million and $65 million respectively. Either way, Cameron's game-changer just got smashed by a $50 million gothic romance aimed at teen girls, the very audience that helped propel Titanic into the record books.
OK, there will be more tomorrow when the weekend figures are released (it might be a little late, due to family commitments). Heck, New Moon might even break that three-day record, rendering much of the above relatively moot. In the meantime, let's also give props to Sandra Bullock, whose real-life drama The Blind Side took in $11 million yesterday. Before this year, Bullock had never had a $20 million opener in her life. Now it looks like she may have two $30 million openers just this year.