‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ & ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’: Youth & fantasy mix among year’s international blockbusters
Two fantasy movies based on literary bestsellers and starring a trio of young actors – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Twilight Saga: New Moon – are, respectively, the second and the sixth biggest international box office hits of 2009.
Earlier in the year, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince boasted the highest-grossing international (five-day) opening weekend ever: $236 million. The adventure fantasy, the sixth installment in the Harry Potter franchise, went on to earn $627.4 million in the international market.
Up to Dec. 13, New Moon has earned an astounding $34.6 million in France (which also includes Monaco, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia). In Germany (which includes only Germany), the female-centered romantic fantasy has grossed $30.3 million; in Spain, $27.8 million; and in Italy, $23.8 million.
In all, during its first three weeks New Moon has amassed more than $320 million internationally.
More international blockbusters
Besides Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, as found at boxofficemojo.com the remaining titles among the Top Six movies at the 2009 international box office (up to mid-December) are the following:
- Carlos Saldanha’s animated Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which collected $682.2 million in summer/fall 2009.
- Roland Emmerich’s 2012, starring John Cusack and a ton of special effects, with $519.3 million to date – compared to a relatively modest $155.28 million in the domestic market.
- Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, with $431.12 million – $65.83 million of which from China alone. In the brainless actioner, brainy machines battle alongside – and against – Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and Josh Duhamel.
- Pete Docter’s animated Up, which will surely be up for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award early next year, with $390.5 million thus far.
‘New Moon’: Unusual international blockbuster
Adapted by Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight Saga series, is an anomaly among international blockbusters in that it centers on a live-action female character – the human teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), torn between her love for a handsome vampire (Robert Pattinson) and her affection for a young Quileute Indian (Taylor Lautner) who also happens to be a werewolf.
Somehow, this multispecies love-lust-indecision triangle has struck a chord with certain segments of the moviegoing (and bestseller-buying) public, chiefly teenage girls and older women. In the U.S., New Moon‘s initial audience was reportedly 50 percent under 21 and 80 percent female.
Record-breaking ‘New Moon’ feats
Unexpectedly, the $50 million-budget New Moon earned $72.7 million on its first day out at the North American (U.S. and Canada) box office, Nov. 20, including a record-setting $26.3 million from Thursday midnight screenings.
The second Twilight Saga movie thus shattered the domestic single-day box office record, which had been previously held by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Starring Christian Bale, the recently deceased Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart, the Batman Begins sequel took in $67.16 million on opening day in July 2008.
According to Box Office Mojo and other sources, on its opening weekend New Moon shattered the following records (not taking inflation into account):
- Biggest midnight gross ever: $26.3 million.
- Biggest opening day and biggest single day ever: $72.7 million vs. The Dark Knight‘s $67.2 million
- Biggest first two days ever: $115.9 million Fri.-Sat. vs. The Dark Knight‘s $114.8 million.
- Biggest November opening weekend ever – $142.8 million – far surpassing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire‘s $102.7 million.
Yet there’s one crucial domestic box office record that New Moon failed to break.
Biggest opening weekend ever? Not ‘New Moon’
As mentioned above, on its first weekend out, Nov. 20–22, New Moon took in an impressive $142.8 million in North America – or more than twice the $69.6 million the original Twilight brought in on its debut weekend in November 2008, and almost three-quarters of that film’s total domestic earnings.
Even so, New Moon failed to achieve the best domestic opening weekend ever. That particular record still belongs to a couple of male-oriented superhero movies: The Dark Knight with $158.4 million, followed by the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire 2007 collaboration Spider-Man 3 with $151.11 million.
Overall, chiefly thanks to New Moon‘s phenomenal box office success the Nov. 20–22 weekend – with a $258.6 million total take – turned out to be the second highest-grossing ever at the domestic box office (for the Top Ten movies; and not adjusted for inflation).
Weekend earnings failed to surpass only those of the late July 2008 weekend when The Dark Knight made its debut. The Top Ten box office at that time soared to a little above $260 million.
Internationally, New Moon scored $118.1 million on its opening weekend, bringing its worldwide total to $260.9 million.
‘New Moon’ box office weakness
On Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 27–29, New Moon was the no. 1 box office hit worldwide. Over the five-day (U.S.) holiday, Chris Weitz’s romantic fantasy took in $66 million domestically (U.S. and Canada), reaching $230.7 million after only ten days out.
For comparison’s sake: at the end of its run, Twilight reached $192.7 million at the domestic box office and $350 million worldwide.
But in spite of its undeniable popularity, the Twilight sequel suffers from a debilitating weakness: mostly dismissed by critics, on Thanksgiving weekend New Moon was down a whopping 70 percent in the U.S. and Canada – a dramatic drop even when taking into account its record-breaking pre-opening-weekend Thursday midnight screenings.
On its third weekend out, Dec. 4–6, New Moon was down another 64 percent.
This past weekend, Dec. 11–13, New Moon, at no. 4 on the chart, collected $7.96 million – down a more modest but still significant 48 percent.
For comparison’s sake, that’s only a little more than half of the gross of the Sandra Bullock star vehicle The Blind Side, also on its fourth weekend out.
But why should that matter?
Well, remember that on its first two weekends out, New Moon was actually ahead – on its first weekend, markedly ahead – of Bullock’s sentimental family drama. Their ranking was reversed a week ago; the reversal has now been accentuated.
‘New Moon’ cast
In addition to Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, New Moon also features:
Christopher Heyerdahl. Cameron Bright. Charlie Bewley. Julia Jones. Gil Birmingham.
Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, 1990; and no relation to either Ashley Greene or the British author of The End of the Affair and Our Man in Havana).
‘Eclipse’ on the horizon
Directed by David Slade from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, and bringing back Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is scheduled to hit theaters in June 2010.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final movie in the franchise, doesn’t have a scheduled release date, yet.
Catharine Hardwicke directed the original Twilight, with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as the leads, and a long-haired Taylor Lautner in a supporting role.
Weekend box office: Hand-drawn ‘The Princess and the Frog’ tops
As for the domestic box office, this past weekend, Dec. 11–13, Walt Disney’s hand-drawn, 2D adventure The Princess and the Frog scored $24.2 million after expanding to 3,434 locations, as per final figures found at Box Office Mojo.
According to some, that’s in line with what was expected; others call it a “soft” opening. No records were shattered, that’s for certain.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, The Princess and the Frog features the voices of Dreamgirls actress Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman, Randy Newman, and Terrence Howard. Total to date: $27.8 million.
‘The Blind Side’ to become biggest Sandra Bullock box office hit ever?
Starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw as an affluent white couple who “adopt” an inner-city, football-playing black teenager (Quinton Aaron), John Lee Hancock’s sleeper hit The Blind Side slipped to no. 2, with $15.05 million – thus slightly passing the $150 million milestone this past weekend. Cume: $150.2 million.
The Blind Side is on its way to becoming the biggest Sandra Bullock domestic box office hit ever, even when taking inflation into account.
Her no. 1 commercial success to date remains one of her first movies as a star, Jan de Bont’s Speed. Co-starring Keanu Reeves, the 1994 action thriller pulled in $121.24 million, or about $217 million today.
Why has ‘The Blind Side’ become the sleeper hit of the year?
Box office “experts” explain the surprising success of The Blind Side in the following manner:
- Sandra Bullock lured women moviegoers (as if Bullock hasn’t had her share of box office flops/disappointments in the last few years – e.g., just a few months ago, All About Steve, co-starring Bradley Cooper and Thomas Haden Church; the 2007 thriller Premonition).
- The sports-themed story lured the men (as if every year there aren’t tons of sports movies that flop miserably, or, as in the case of this weekend’s Invictus, are commercial disappointments).
- “Families” checked it out because of the “inspirational” storyline about a white woman who helps out a young black football player. (Once again, check out the “inspirational” Invictus’ box office further below.)
- Christians, for their part, may have been attracted by the dinner table prayer scene shown above. (Everything’s possible.)
Sandra Bullock’s box office bonanza
Whatever the reasons, The Blind Side is Sandra Bullock’s second major 2009 domestic box office hit, following Anne Fletcher’s romantic comedy The Proposal ($163.97 million), in which she co-starred with Ryan Reynolds.
Prior to these two, Bullock’s last star vehicle to pass the $100 million milestone in the U.S. and Canada was Donald Petrie’s Miss Congeniality back in 2000. Adjusted for inflation, Marc Lawrence’s 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, co-starring Hugh Grant, is her only other pre-2009 release this century to reach nine figures domestically.
The Blind Side reportedly cost only $30–35 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses.
‘Inspirational’ sports & politics drama ‘Invictus’ has dispiriting debut
Set during the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in the mid-1990s, new entry Invictus finished third with a modest $8.61 million at 2,125 locations.
Starring Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the captain of South Africa’s rugby team Springboks, and National Board of Review Best Actor co-winner* Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, Clint Eastwood’s audience-friendly mix of sports and politics is a likely Oscar nominee in several categories. That should help to lift its box office prospects somewhat early next year.
Even so, Invictus is one “inspirational” sports movie that has absolutely no chance of reaching the heights of The Blind Side. In fact, unless it receives lots and lots of love from the Academy, the anything-but-unbeatable Invictus will be lucky if it manages to end its run with a domestic gross matching the $34.19 million The Blind Side earned on its first weekend out.
Apparently, there’s room for only one “inspirational” sports-themed movie per season.
* Morgan Freeman shared the National Board of Review’s Best Actor award with George Clooney for Up in the Air, which has been doing good business in the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth Reaser, Peter Facinelli, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner New Moon images: Summit Entertainment.
Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, and Sandra Bullock The Blind Side prayer scene image: Ralph Nelson / Warner Bros.
Image of Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar in Invictus: Warner Bros.
“New Moon Breaks Box Office Records Except Key One + Debilitating Twilight Weakness” last updated in August 2018.