Credit: Andrew Cooper

The draining of money has begun. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, the fourth movie in the supernatural-romance franchise, grossed an incredible $72 million on Friday, according to early estimates.

That’s the third-best opening day ever, behind only this year’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 ($91.1 million) and 2009’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72.7 million). And while Breaking Dawn fell slightly short of New Moon, it did surpass the opening day of last year’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which debuted to $68.5 million (albeit on a Wednesday).

New Moon is the best comparison point for Breaking Dawn since it hit theaters on the same November weekend two years ago. If Breaking Dawn follows New Moon‘s trajectory, it will drop 42 percent on Saturday and another 34 percent on Sunday. That’d give Breaking Dawn an opening weekend total of about $141 million, which would rank as the fifth-best debut ever (behind Potter, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 3, and New Moon). An $141 million opening would be a bit below what many box-office prognosticators (myself included) were predicting for Breaking Dawn, but is still an absolutely outstanding start for the film.

Included in the PG-13 movie’s $72 million Friday figure was $30.3 million from Thursday midnight showings — a midnight debut second to only the final Potter film. Breaking Dawn cost $110 million to produce and received a good-but-not-great B+ rating from CinemaScore moviegoers.

The dancing penguins of Happy Feet Two failed to bring fluffy back, as the $135 million animated sequel underperformed by grossing only $5.9 million on Friday. Factoring in a likely Saturday bump from family audiences, the PG-rated flick should finish the weekend with around $22 million. By comparison, the original Happy Feet nearly doubled that amount by debuting to $41.5 million in 2006. Clearly penguins’ moment in the box-office spotlight has passed, which is too bad considering they’re pretty much the coolest animals on Earth.

Among holdovers, Immortals plummeted 74 percent for $3.8 million on Friday. The Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill fell 64 percent for $3.5 million. And Puss in Boots swiped $3.4 million — down 62 percent from last week. In limited release, Alexander Payne’s Hawaiian dramedy The Descendants, starring George Clooney, collected an impressive $319,000 from 29 theaters. Check back here on Sunday for the complete box office report.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 — $72.0 mil

2. Happy Feet Two — $5.9 mil

3. Immortals — $3.8 mil

4. Jack and Jill — $3.5 mil

5. Puss in Boots — $3.4 mil

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Pt. 1
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