Box Office Preview: Breaking Dawn Means Other Films Just Don’t Stand a Chance

If you’re a teenage girl with swooning-induced tunnel vision, you might not be aware that Summit Entertainment’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1 grossed $30.3 million in midnight runs, or that it opened in 3,251 theaters at 12:01 a.m. Friday before moving into a total of 4,061 locations by mid-morning, but you’re likely part of that statistic.

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The Twilight Saga, based on the young adult book series by Stephenie Meyer, has become to teenage girls what Star Wars was and will forever be for nerds of all ages. Fans of the series that counts Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner among its leading men have been known to buy full-sized cutouts and collectible doll versions of their favorite characters.

It seems the allure of good-looking monsters — most of the film’s stars are well-groomed vampires and werewolves — is too strong resist. Until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out this summer, the last two Twilight films set records for best midnight performances. Deathly Hallows earned $43.6 million in midnight grosses, which puts Breaking Dawn at number 2 in terms of all-time midnight bests. The last Twilight film earned $30 million in midnight runs while the film before than earned $26.3 million when it opened this same weekend two years ago.

Breaking Dawn is all but assured to becoming only the second film this year to open north of $100 million in its first weekend. Two years ago, The Twlight Saga: New Moon debuted on the same weekend to $142.8 million. While Summit is giving a more conservative range of $110 million to $125 million for Breaking Dawn, rivals are convinced it will do $135 million or better. The only other film opening north of $100 million this year is, you guessed it — Deathly Hallows.

From the chatter surrounding Breaking Dawn, you wouldn’t know that any other films are opening this weekend, but believe it or not, a few have dared to place themselves in the running. Alexander Payne’s The Descendents — starring George Clooney — opened in five theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday in a bid to build word-of-mouth heading into Thanksgiving week, taking in a per location average of $7,973.

Today, Descendents expands into an additional 29 theaters in 11 more markets, and will move to 400 or more theaters on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Reviewers have already put Descendents in the running for every major film award, which should be good news for Fox Searchlight (NASDAQ:NWSA) as Oscar buzz has been known to turn films with measly revenues into box office gold. Case in Point: The King’s Speech.

Also opening this weekend is Happy Feet Two, the only family film of the bunch. Though the film adds Brad Pitt and Matt Damon to its original cast of voices, which includes Elijah Wood and Robin Williams, the reviews haven’t been favorable, and Happy Feet Two may not open as high as the original Happy Feet, which took in $41.5 million in its first weekend. Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX) expects the film to debut in the same range as DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s Puss in Boots, which opened to $34.1 million, but expects it will see stronger numbers next week as kids are on break for Thanksgiving.

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A host of independent films will also be released in select theaters this weekend, while next Wednesday holds some bigger releases getting a head-start on the weekend. Family films Arthur Christmas, Hugo and The Muppets all open on November 23 and will likely prove formidable competition for Happy Feet Two.