By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bella and Edward's big-screen farewell lit up box offices with $30.4 million in late-night ticket sales for the finale of the blockbuster "Twilight" vampire series, production studio Summit Entertainment said on Friday.
The U.S. and Canadian box office receipts for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2" beat initial sales for each of the previous four films in the franchise, though the final installment got a boost from late Thursday night previews.
Last year's "Breaking Dawn, Part 1" kicked off with $30.3 million from shows just after midnight on the Friday that it debuted, according to figures from Hollywood.com. Summit, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, did not provide Friday-only numbers for "Breaking Dawn, Part 2."
The record for opening-night sales belongs to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," the finale in the boy-wizard series that grabbed $43.5 million when it debuted in July 2011.
Box office watchers say the "Twilight" finale has a shot at setting the franchise record for opening weekend sales when receipts through Sunday are tallied. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," released in November 2009, now ranks as the biggest opening in the series, with $142.8 million in sales over the first three days after its release in November 2009.
"Breaking Dawn - Part 2" stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in the conclusion of angst-ridden vampire and werewolf love triangle created by author Stephenie Meyer in a series of young adult books. In the final film, wedded vampires Bella and Edward must protect their daughter from an ancient vampire clan.
Opening weekend will get a lift from fans who rush out to see the movie because it is the last film in the popular series, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. He projects domestic three-day sales will reach $145 million to $150 million.
"Like 'Potter,' the final installment of this will benefit from the cachet of being the last one," he said.
(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; editing by Andrew Hay)