Fans are over the moon for "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," which pulled in $68.5 million in its first day to set a new record for a movie debuting on Wednesday.
The third installment in the vampire romance surpassed the previous Wednesday record of $62 million set last year by "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."
But "Eclipse" fell short of the all-time best opening day, a record held by its predecessor, last November's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," which took in $72.7 million. "New Moon" opened on a Friday, typically a busier day at theaters than weekdays.
"Eclipse" opened in a record 4,416 theaters and expands to 4,468 cinemas Friday for the Fourth of July weekend, one of the biggest box-office weekends of the year.
With so much money already in the bank and a long holiday weekend ahead, distributor Summit Entertainment hopes "Eclipse" can top the $200 million haul for "Revenge of the Fallen" in its first five days, a record for a movie opening on Wednesday.
"It certainly is a target for us," said Richie Fay, head of distribution for Summit. "I'd be real hesitant to say that we will break that. We would love to and are striving to. We have the location and screen count that could get us there. But if the weather isn't in our favor, if people are out barbecuing and looking at fireworks Sunday night, we may not get there."
In a single day, "Eclipse" took in a fraction more than the $68 million the movie cost to produce.
Fay said "Eclipse" followed the pattern of "New Moon," whose audience was 80 percent female. With generally better reviews on "Eclipse" than its predecessors and a marketing campaign that played up the movie's action, Summit executives hope the latest sequel will draw in more males as the weekend progresses, he said.
"Eclipse" continues the story of brooding teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), caught in a love triangle involving her vampire boyfriend (Robert Pattinson) and her werewolf pal (Taylor Lautner). The new movie forces vampires and werewolves to set aside old rivalries and unite against a band of ravenous newborn bloodsuckers.
The franchise concludes with a two-part adaptation of "Breaking Dawn," the final novel in Stephenie Meyer's best-selling series. Part one of "Breaking Dawn" is due in theaters Nov. 18, 2011.