Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 11-14-11

Scene from “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1”

Scene from “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1”

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – In theaters November 18th

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – In theaters November 18th

Taylor Lautner and Nikki Reed in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1”

Taylor Lautner and Nikki Reed in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1”

“Twilight” time: It seems odd to be able to write that this weekend’s number one movie will be “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” without using traditional qualifiers like “most likely” or “probably.”

But with the first part of the Summit Entertainment blockbuster franchise’s final episode tracking in enviable double digits as moviegoers’ first choice film, there’s no risk in declaring it the winner before the race is run.

Directed by Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), the PG-13 romantic fantasy drama is a must-see movie arriving Friday at about 4,000 theatres. It re-teams Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner for the next to the last time in a film based on one of Stephanie Taylor’s “Twilight” best-sellers.

“Breaking Dawn - Part 2’s” already slated to open Nov. 16, 2012 so fans can put it on their calendars right now to hold the date.

The “Twilight” franchise’s first three episodes grossed nearly $790 million in domestic theatres. Given the huge want-to-see that Summit’s marketing team has generated for “Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” this one should break new boxoffice ground.

The series’ last episode, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” opened June 30, 2010 to $64.8 million at 4,468 theatres. It went on to gross $300.5 million domestically and another $398 million internationally for a global theatrical cume of $698.5 million.

As wonderful as it is to have a killer franchise like “Twilight,” the problem is that all good things must end and that puts the pressure on Summit to come up with something new to take its place. It helps that they’ve bought some extra time to develop a new franchise by splitting the final “Twilight” series film into two parts, just as Warner Bros. did with the last of the “Harry Potter” books — turning it into “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.”

Meanwhile, it’s Lionsgate that has what very well could be the next blockbuster youth appeal franchise in “The Hunger Games.” Directed and co-written by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”), it stars Jennifer Lawrence (“X-Men: First Class”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Kids Are All Right”) and arrives in theatres next Mar. 23.

Based on Suzanne Collins’ sci-fi novel published in September 2008, the film’s set in a post-apocalyptic world in which teen boys and girls from each of 12 districts are pitted against each other in annual televised battles to the death known as “The Hunger Games.” There can, of course, be only one survivor.

Coming back to this weekend, “Breaking Dawn’s” tracking phenomenally well with under-25 females and also doing well with females over-25. In many cases, of course, those ladies will drag their husbands and boyfriends along to see it with them.

The weekend’s only other wide release is Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s animated 3D family comedy “Happy Feet Two.” Directed by George Miller (“Happy Feet”), the PG rated sequel is going into 3,600-plus theatres.

Starring once again are the voice talents of Robin Williams (“Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”) and Elijah Wood (“The Lord of the Rings”).

The first “Happy Feet” opened Nov. 17, 2006 to a very happy $41.5 million at 3,804 theatres and went on to gross $198 million domestically.

The sequel’s tracking best with 25-plus females, which translates into “moms with kids.” So “Happy 2” is good counter-programming against “Breaking Dawn.”

By putting it in the pre-Thanksgiving marketplace, Warners will establish “Happy” before three big PG rated family films arrive Nov. 23 for the long Thanksgiving Weekend — Disney’s live action “The Muppets,” Paramount's live action 3D “Hugo” and Sony's animated 3D “Arthur Christmas.”

“Happy” will also face some competition for family audiences in its opening weekend from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Puss in Boots.” “Puss” was still doing big business last weekend, its third in theatres. It grossed over $25 million and was only off about 23 percent. It’s already taken in over $108 million.

Bottom line: Look for sunny boxoffice skies thanks to “Twilight.”