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New Moon Madness

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The Twilight Saga continues.

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They're baaaaaaaack! Bella, Edward, Jacob, and the cast of the vampire romance The Twilight Saga: New Moon are expected to take a big bite from movie theater box offices this weekend. And if the frenzy in my hometown is any indicator, the forecasts of a $100 million haul are dead on.

Moms have been placing Internet ticket pre-orders and orchestrating carpools all week as my daughter's entire soccer team and the tween-age Twilight fans from schools across town coordinate a mass descent on a nearby cinema for an opening night performance.

"I have huge expectations for the movie," Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com told Reuters. "I'm not going to say it's going to exceed it, but a $100 million opening weekend I think is totally in the cards for this one."

(Editor's Update: See "New Moon" wolfs down $140.7M in opening weekend.)

New Moon is independent studio Summit Entertainment's sequel to last year's blockbuster Twilight. That film pulled in $69.6 million in its first weekend. The film, based on the four-book series by author Stephanie Meyer, grossed more than $370 million worldwide before the March DVD release.

Anticipation has been building all week. In the NewsCorp (NWS) camp, MySpace streamed live coverage of the red-carpet premiere. Online ticket sellers Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com reported New Moon is their all-time biggest advance ticket seller.

What makes this release very different from last year's is the big brand merchandising tied to the film. Volvo (VOLVY) launched an advertising and social media campaign featuring a 30-second spot reinforcing the connection between the brand and the car driven by Robert Pattinson, who portrays the film's teenage vampire star Edward. (I'm not a TwilightMom. I'm more partial to Glee. It's my daughter who could tell you that in real life, Pattinson drives a BMW. The vehicle from the film that most influenced her is Bella's weathered red pick-up truck. She knew it was a Chevy).

The campaign's companion website WhatDrivesEdward.com offers Twihards a chance to win a Volvo if they successfully complete a six-phase puzzle.

The real target of Volvo's messaging, however, may be me. "Presumably with Twilight being a tween girl franchise, they are hoping that the message might be picked up by moms to use the Volvo to take their adolescent little vampires to soccer practice," Lucian James of the brand strategy consultancy Agenda told ADWEEK.

Burger King also is going all out for New Moon. A promotion with MasterCard (MA) offers a chance to win a four-night trip to Italy and a guided tour of the New Moon film location.

A medley of New Moon-themed merchandise is part of Burger King's efforts. But whether that has any effect on the stock price or disgruntled Burger King Holdings (BKC) franchisees remains to be seen.

Will your household be part of New Moon Madness this weekend?
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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