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'Breaking Dawn' scores 5th biggest U.S. opening

Summit Entertainment's "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" opened with a sharp bite around the globe, grossing $139.5 million domestically and $144 million overseas for a franchise best $283.5 million.

"Breaking Dawn" set two key records: It's the fifth largest opening ever at the domestic box office; and the 10th largest worldwide, supplanting "New Moon," which took in $274.9 million.

"We faced the weekend with some trepidation because you don't really know on a fourth installment whether you are going to maintain the interest of your audience. The numbers seem to speak for themselves. We got as close to "New Moon" as we could," Summit president of distribution Richie Fay said.

Females continued to drive the vampire franchise, making up 80 percent of North American ticket buyers. "Breaking Dawn's" audience, however, skewed slightly older than the previous films, with 50 percent of the audience over the age of 25. Last year, 54 percent of the opening weekend audience for "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" was under the age of 25.

"Eclipse," opening on June 30, a Wednesday, earned $157 million in its first five days at the domestic box office.

"Breaking Dawn,"teaming director Bill Condon with franchise stars Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, received a B+ CinemaScore, compared to an A- for "Eclipse."

Among other new players, Warner Bros.' "Happy Feet Two" opened to a soft $22 million domestically, compared to $42.7 million for the original "Happy Feet" on the same weekend in 2006. Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros. cautioned that "Breaking Dawn" was likely to compete with "Happy Feet Two" for moms and girls, but still expected the 3-D toon to open at $30 million or better.

"We certainly didn't open to the number we expected, but hopefully we'll catch up over Thanksgiving week and weekend," Warner president of distribution Dan Fellman said. "Our exits were very good, but there was a lot of competition for the female audience, between 'Twilight,' 'Jack and Jill' and 'Puss in Boots.' "

"Happy Feet Two" will have plenty of competition next week as three family films debut on Wednesday—Sony's "Arthur Christmas," Paramount's "Hugo" and Disney's "The Muppets." Warners still believes "Happy Feet Two" will have an advantage because its a known brand.

The good news for Warners was that 50 percent of the grosses for "Happy Feet" came from 3-D screens. The pic received a B+ CinemaScore overall, although females—who made up 57 percent of the audience—gave it an A-, as did moviegoers under the age of 25, who made up 47 percent of those buying tickets.

Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," starring George Clooney, made headlines in placing No. 10 for the weekend, even though it was only playing in 29 theaters in 11 top markets. The Fox Searchlight film grossed $1.2 million for a massive per location average of $41,379. The movie's cume (it opened last Wednesday in five locations) is $1.3 million.

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