By John Young
Updated November 20, 2011 at 07:13 PM EST

Although it didn’t set a franchise record, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 had one of the best openings in box-office history by debuting to $139.5 million, according to studio estimates. That’s the fifth-best opening weekend ever, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 3, and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which held on to the franchise record.

New Moon debuted to a slightly better $142.8 million on the same November weekend two years ago. What’s interesting is how closely Breaking Dawn followed New Moon‘s trajectory. New Moon grossed $72.7 million its first day, and then dropped 42 percent on Saturday and 34 percent on Sunday. By comparison, Breaking Dawn earned $72 million on Friday (the third-best opening day ever), and then fell 44 percent on Saturday and a projected 34 percent today.

New Moon ultimately finished its domestic run with $296.6 million, and it’s too early to tell whether Breaking Dawn will wind up a bit short of that final figure. Even if it does, Summit Entertainment won’t be complaining about grossing nearly $300 million from the fourth movie of its franchise. And, of course, the domestic box office is only a part of the equation here. Breaking Dawn took in $144 million from 54 foreign territories this week, pushing its worldwide debut to a staggering $283.5 million.

Summit reports that Breaking Dawn attracted a crowd that was, unsurprisingly, 80 percent female. What is surprising is that the PG-13 movie’s audience wasn’t as young as you’d think, with 60 percent over the age of 21. According to CinemaScore, 30 percent of the film’s audience was under 18, but an even larger 42 percent was between the ages of 18 and 34. The popular conception is that The Twilight Saga is merely a teenage phenomenon, but these figures seem to prove otherwise. The $110 million movie received a good-but-not-great B+ rating from CinemaScore graders.

In second place was Warner Bros.’ 3-D animated sequel Happy Feet Two, which fell far short of expectations by dancing to only $22 million. The 2006 original, an Oscar winner for best animated feature, opened to $41.5 million — and that was without the benefit of 3-D surcharges.

Happy Feet Two was saddled with mediocre reviews, which might have discouraged some parents. Furthermore, five years could have been too long of a wait, especially for a sequel that appeared very similar to its predecessor. The original Happy Feet was released a year after March of the Penguins, when the Antarctic birds were having a moment in the cultural zeitgeist. That moment has clearly passed. The $135 million sequel earned a B+ rating from CinemaScore moviegoers, and 3-D theaters accounted for 50 percent of its weekend tally.

The rest of the top five consisted of holdovers. The 3-D action flick Immortals dropped a harsh 62 percent for $12.3 million — a second-weekend decline that was larger than both 300 (54 percent) and Clash of the Titans (57 percent). Jack and Jill witnessed a typical Adam Sandler fall of 52 percent for $12 million. And even though Happy Feet Two underperformed, Puss in Boots lost much of its family audience. The animated adventure dropped 57 percent for $10.7 million in its fourth weekend.

In limited release, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, starring George Clooney, debuted to $1.2 million from 29 theaters — enough for a tenth-place finish. The Oscar hopeful raked in an impressive $42,150 per location. Only Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, and Jane Eyre opened to stronger per-theater averages this year, and those movies started out on far fewer screens than The Descendants.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 — $139.5 mil

2. Happy Feet Two — $22.0 mil

3. Immortals — $12.3 mil

4. Jack and Jill — $12.0 mil

5. Puss in Boots — $10.7 mil

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Pt. 1

  • Movie