'Twilight' sequel scores monster box office opening

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The Independent Culture

The hotly anticipated sequel to vampire romance "Twilight" scored a monster hit at the North American box office on Friday, shattering previous records for midnight openings, reports said.

Entertainment industry reports citing Summit Entertainment said "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" raked in 26.3 million dollars from midnight showings, beating best marks set by "The Dark Knight" and the sixth Harry Potter film.

Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" took 18.4 million on July 18, 2008, and "Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince" earned 22.2 million earlier this year in midnight screenings.

If "New Moon's" stellar opening carries over into the weekend the film could rewrite the record books further, threatening the opening weekend record of "The Dark Knight", which took 158.3 million last year.

Based on the books by Stephenie Meyer, the "Twilight" franchise follows the fortunes of high school teenager Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, and her vampire lover Edward Cullen, played by British hearthrob Robert Pattinson.

The first film in the franchise opened in November 2008, earning an estimated 383 million dollars worldwide.

While young female viewers are the key demographic behind the franchise's success, analysts say the sequel may have successfully lured male cinema-goers with a marketing campaign emphasizing action as well as romance.

"This is extremely impressive," said Jeff Bock, chief analyst at box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "I don't think anyone was expecting figures like this.

"This has become an event like a Harry Potter book being released. If it has crossed over demographically then we could see it challenge 'The Dark Knight' numbers, which would be extraordinary."

Bock described the film's appeal as "lightning in a bottle."

"You've got the obvious appeal of vampires and werewolves, but it's also the element of immortal love, which is timeless," he said.

"The makers of this film always had females in their back pocket. They ramped up the action and that may have brought males into the picture.

"If they've been successful we could be looking at something like 130 or 140 million for an opening weekend."