Movie Projector: 'Breaking Dawn' to suck life out of 'Happy Feet'
The latest chapter in the mega-popular "Twilight" movie franchise is expected to take a substantial bite out of the box office when it debuts this weekend, possibly raking in as much as $150 million in ticket sales.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" is the fourth movie based on author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels about a love triangle between a girl, a vampire and a werewolf. The latest installment in the series will likely gross between $140 million and $150 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Summit Entertainment, which produces and releases the "Twilight" movies, is forecasting a far softer opening of $110 million to $125 million.
In either case, the film is expected to demolish the weekend's other new entry, "Happy Feet Two." The 3-D animated sequel featuring dancing penguins is projected to collect a modest sum of between $30 million and $35 million.
The second "Twilight" movie, "New Moon," opened on the same weekend in November 2009 to $142.8 million. Six months later, the third film, "Eclipse" collected $157.7 million in its first five days of release, which spanned the Fourth of July holiday.
Summit said it has lowered its expectations for the fourth movie because a "Twilight" picture has not been released in over a year. The final "Twilight" movie, "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2," is scheduled to hit theaters next November.
"With 'New Moon' and 'Eclipse' coming out so close together, 'Twilight' was really in the public eye -- not just with the marketing, but with the books and the DVDs,” said Richie Fay, Summit's domestic-distribution president.
Even if "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" is able to beat the opening weekend record for a "Twilight" film, it's unlikely to have a stronger debut than the final "Harry Potter" release. That movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2," opened to $169.2 million in July.
"Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," featuring the highly anticipated wedding and sexually charged honeymoon of the film's main characters, played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, cost the studio about $110 million to produce after tax rebates.
Overseas, where Summit has pre-sold the film to local distributors, "Breaking Dawn" will open this weekend in 54 markets, among them Mexico and Spain. It has already brought in about $9 million from countries that include France, Australia and Italy.
"Eclipse" grossed nearly $400 million abroad out of its $698.5 million worldwide tally.
"Breaking Dawn" is expected to steal much of the female audience from "Happy Feet Two," as mothers and teens will likely head to the "Twilight" flick this weekend instead of the animated picture.
Warner Bros. and co-financier Village Roadshow Pictures spent about $135 million to produce the animated sequel. In November 2006, the first movie debuted with $41.5 million and ultimately collected $384.3 million worldwide. "Happy Feet" also received far more positive reviews than its sequel.
If projections are correct, the opening for "Happy Feet Two" will be a disappointment, given that the new movie has the advantage of 3-D ticket surcharges. Plus, the film is likely to lose steam over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, when three new PG-rated family movies -- including "Arthur Christmas" and "The Muppets" -- are opening.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight is set to expand "The Descendants" to 29 theaters from the five it debuted in on Wednesday. The Alexander Payne-directed film, starring George Clooney as a father struggling to regain control of his family, is already generating awards buzz.
Photo: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1." Credit: Summit Entertainment