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Twilight Sinks Fangs Into US Box Office

Vamp flick posts $70 million opening

James Bond has faced off and beaten drug lords, criminal masterminds, nefarious publishing magnates and a bloke with a dodgy eye who was pretty good at poker. But even 007, it seems, can’t stop vampires. At least, not vampires with dreamy eyes and hair the size of a small skyscraper.

Yes, readers, there’s a new franchise in town, since Twilight – the movie based on the teen-lit novel by Stephenie Meyer – staked out the top spot at the US box office this weekend with an astonishing estimated opening weekend of $70 million, sending Jimmy Bond’s Quantum Of Solace down to a distant second.

The grosses for Catherine Hardwicke’s movie, powered largely by a committed, well organised and deeply passionate army of Twilight fans who accounted for a $35 million opening day on Friday and could probably win the war on terror in six weeks if they put their minds to it, is vindication for new mini-studio, Summit Entertainment, which took a gamble on Twilight when other studios, notably Paramount, had passed.

And now they’re raking in the cash, with a sequel – New Moon – already given the green light to further explore the love affair between Robert Pattinson’s big-haired vampire, Edward Cullen, and his human love, Bella (Kristen Stewart).

But to Twilight and the here and now. $70 million for a film that cost peanuts (not literally) and that was seen by many at the beginning of the year as nothing more than a mid-level movie is quite astonishing. Some of its gross can be attributed to the absence of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince from the November schedules, but only some. And while it may seem, with half of its opening weekend earned on that first day, that frontloading has taken place, it’s hard to tell where Twilight will end up, with its hardcore fans lining up repeat business, and good reviews luring in the uninitiated.

Next week is also Thanksgiving in the States, which will see all movies in the top 10 get a bump. So it’ll be a while before we can work out where this is going to end up. Will it be north of $200 million? Or will it burn out rather quickly, set for an afterlife on Blu-Ray? We’ll keep you posted.

In need of a Thanksgiving bump is Quantum Of Solace. The 22nd James Bond movie dropped around 60% from last week’s $67 million opening to post an estimated $27.4 million this weekend, giving it $109 million after ten days. Though it may seem like negative word-of-mouth has affected the Marc Forster movie, it’s normal now for a big blockbuster to drop 50-60% in its second weekend.

Still, Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond is still on course to become the biggest 007 movie of all time, and possibly the first to crest the $600 million mark worldwide, putting it ahead of Casino Royale. But, unless it picks up over the next couple of weeks, it won’t crack $200 million in the States, remaining behind The Bourne Ultimatum, which is still the biggest spy movie in domestic history.

It’ll be interesting as well to see if Bond can retain second place in the top ten when the final numbers come in, for right now it’s only an estimated $400,000 ahead of Disney’s 3D CG adventure, Bolt. The $27 million gross for John Lasseter’s first release as Disney chief may seem slightly disappointing, especially compared to the grosses of the Pixar films, but it actually recovered after a fairly weak start on Friday ($7 million) and, bolstered by the voice talent of the increasingly popular Miley Cyrus, should hold up well over the coming weeks.

With the best will in the world, though, it looks like Disney’s other big hope, High School Musical 3: Senior Year won’t graduate to the hundred million dollar club, after all. The musical which, in case you didn’t know, is set in a high school, dropped around 64% from last week to pull in about $2 million and now has $86 million after five weeks.

Two films that bucked a trend by moving up this week were Danny Boyle’s Oscar hopeful, Slumdog Millionaire and Miramax’s The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, a concentration camp drama from Mark Herman (the director of Brassed Off, fact fans). The latter, which opened three weeks ago, expanded into just over 400 locations this week, and was rewarded with a $1.6 million gross, enough to place it ninth.

Slumdog Millionaire didn’t quite make the top ten, but it came damn close – and for a movie that is currently playing in just 32 cinemas across the States, that’s an astonishing achievement. Boyle’s uplifting drama pulled in just under a million dollars this weekend, but its amazing per-screen average of $31,063 – higher even than Twilight – indicates that, when it does open wide, it should pull in a tidy sum.

Next week, it’s turkey time for Americans. Which is not to disparage the quality of the big three releases – Australia, Transporter 3 and Four Christmases - in any way, shape or form, of course. But the assorted box office might of Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and The Stath himself might not be enough to thwart Robert Pattinson and his mighty hair. After all, if Bond couldn’t manage it…

Find out next week. In the meantime, go to Box Office Mojo to check out the latest chart.

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