Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2009:
#2: New Moon Eclipses Box Office

By David Mumpower

January 3, 2010

Ugh x 1000.

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Once in awhile, a box office story occurs that almost exists outside of its individual achievement. The Twilight Saga: New Moon is such a situation in that its box office behavior not only exemplifies a franchise on the rise but also simultaneously encapsulates a decade worth of box office trending with one event.

I speak of course of the opening weekend of New Moon. There are twin aspects to this discussion. The first is an individual examination of the success of the Twilight sequel. The second requires a bit of box office history. Let's discuss this portion before talking about the Summit Entertainment side of the story. At the start of the new millennium, The Lost World: Jurassic Park stood as the most lucrative opening weekend in box office history. As hard as this is to imagine nine years to the day later, $72.1 million represented the best weekend total ever. Not even the highly anticipated Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, could surpass this total. For four and a half years, the record stood until the release of the first J.K. Rowling adaptation, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, shattered it with a $90.3 million weekend. Re-stating terms, $72.1 million was the pinnacle of box office achievements until November of 2001.

On November 20, 2009, New Moon made $72.7 million. In one day.


To put that number in perspective, consider that on its own $72.7 million would be the 31st most successful debut of all time (Avatar since exceeding it). That total represents a larger opening weekend than 300, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (or any of the other two Lord of the Rings films, for that matter), any release in the Bourne Trilogy, all James Bond films, all Pixar films, the afore-mentioned Lost World and...Twilight.

While an argument ensues whenever people debate which of the feats above is most impressive, the reality is that the correct answer is Twilight. The brand was increased so much that the stellar $69.6 debut of the original, the 34th biggest debut of all time to that point, was beaten in 24 hours. And it's not as if Twilight had come out awhile ago. The one year anniversary of the first release was not until the second day of New Mon's release. This franchise expanded exponentially in popularity and it did so in a hurry.

A lot of the reason why New Moon excelled was the overriding adoration directed toward the original release. After the $69.7 million debut of Twilight, it didn't flame out of theaters as many predicted. Instead, it hung around long enough to earn a domestic total of $192.8 million, a final box office multiplier (final domestic revenue divided by opening weekend) of 2.76. That's not a stupendous demonstration of legs by any stretch, but it is well beyond most expectations for Twilight. Equally impressive were its $203.7 million earned overseas and its $178 million on the home video market, a total surpassed by only The Dark Knight in terms of 2008 releases. Yes, that means Twilight's home video revenue exceeded that of Iron Man. The easy statement to make here is that Goth Girls outnumber comic book geeks these days, but that's not the reality of the situation.

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