The domestic total gives "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" the second-best debut weekend for the franchise, after the $142.8 million launch for 2009's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." "Breaking Dawn" did more than half of its business, $72 million, on opening day Friday, while the movie's debut weekend was the fifth-best on record.
Opening in 54 overseas markets, "Breaking Dawn" pulled in $144 million internationally, according to studio estimates Sunday.
But the Warner Bros. dancing penguin sequel "Happy Feet 2" stumbled in its debut, pulling in just $22 million over opening weekend. That's barely half what the first film in the animated franchise earned in its 2006 opening.
The comparison is even worse considering the original did not have the sequel's price advantage for 3-D screenings, which cost a few dollars more than 2-D shows.
The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Relativity Media's action tale "Immortals," fell to third-place with $12.3 million, raising its domestic haul to $53 million.
George Clooney had a great start with Fox Searchlight's comic drama "The Descendants," which broke into the top-10 despite playing in just a handful of theaters.
"The Descendants" finished at No. 10 with $1.2 million in 29 theaters, averaging a whopping $42,150 a cinema. That compares to an average of $34,351 in 4,061 theaters for "Breaking Dawn."
Directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), the film stars Clooney as a distressed dad tending to his daughters after his wife falls into a coma from a head injury. The film expands to about 400 theaters Wednesday.
In an industry whose main audience is young males, "Twilight" is a rare blockbuster franchise driven by female viewers. Distributor Summit Entertainment reported that women and girls made up 80 percent of the audience for "Breaking Dawn."
The popularity of "Twilight" has left many men scratching their heads, even those involved in releasing the movies.
"I'm 53 years old, and I haven't figured it out yet," said Richie Fay, head of distribution for Summit. "It relates really to young girls and things that are important to them, their romantic ideas of love and relationships, without getting so physical, at least on screen, that it becomes a worry for their parents."
"Breaking Dawn" has brooding teen Bella (Kristen Stewart) marrying vampire lover Edward (Robert Pattinson), whose family strikes an uneasy alliance with jealous werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to protect the bride and the baby she's carrying.
The movie's big start points to even better business for next year's "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," the finale in the five-film series based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling novels.
"Breaking Dawn" was a windfall for Hollywood in general, whose domestic revenues continue to trail 2010's despite rosy projections last spring of a record box-office year.
Domestic business totaled $222 million, up 14 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" led with $125 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
The penguins of "Happy Feet 2" were left in the cold compared with the big debut for the first film, a critical favorite that won the Academy Award for feature animation.
The sequel, featuring returning voice stars Elijah Wood and Robin Williams, received mixed to bad reviews. Still, Warner Bros. reported it earned high marks from audiences, which could keep it afloat in the coming weeks.
"We honestly feel we'll pick up some steam and play some catch-up as we get into the holidays," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner.
But the competition for family audiences turns intense in the next few days with Martin Scorsese's youthful adventure "Hugo," the musical comedy "The Muppets" and the animated holiday tale "Arthur Christmas" all opening Wednesday for the busy Thanksgiving weekend.
The newcomers, combined with "Breaking Dawn," could lift Hollywood above the Thanksgiving record set in 2009, when "New Moon" paced the industry to a $273 million domestic haul from Wednesday to Sunday.
"This could be one of the greatest movie-going weekends ever in the midst of a year that has really had its ups and downs at the box office," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1," $139.5 million
($144 million international)
2. "Happy Feet 2," $22 million.
3. "Immortals," $12.3 million.
4. "Jack and Jill," $12 million.
5. "Puss in Boots," $10.7 million ($2.4 million international).
6. "Tower Heist," $7 million ($4.5 million international).
7. "J. Edgar," $5.9 million.
8. "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," $2.9 million.
9. "In Time," $1.7 million.
10. "The Descendants," $1.2 million.