Hundreds of fans across the city arrived as early as 1 a.m. Thursday to stake out spots in front of movie theaters so they could get the best seats for the late-evening screenings of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2," the final movie in the film franchise based on the "Twilight" books by Stephenie Meyer.
Many faced the finale with mixed emotions.
"I am excited about seeing the last film. I don't think it will hit me until the end of the movie that it's all over," said Michaelah Cole, 15, of Clovis.
Early Thursday, 36 of the 46 local screenings -- which started as early as 10 p.m. -- were sold out. There were 44 sold-out midnight showings of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1," just over a year ago.
Originally, theaters were not going to hold midnight screenings for the film because of security concerns after the July shootings in Colorado at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." But local theaters were given the option of adding more screens at and after midnight to meet demand. Seven of the advance screenings in Fresno started at that hour.
There was plenty of evidence of demand as lines of fans stretched from the local theaters. Fans brought pillows, games, books and umbrellas, and some watched past "Twilight" films on mobile devices to pass the time.
The "Twilight" finale is on track to have a huge box office opening weekend. Fandango, the online site for ticket purchases, reported that "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" represented 92% of Thursday's ticket sales, with thousands of showtimes sold out across the country.
Early estimates are that "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" will take in more than $150 million at the box office. The largest opening for a movie is "The Avengers," which took in more than $207 million. The previous biggest opening weekend for a "Twilight" movie was the 2009 release "New Moon" at $143 million.
"It's the most anticipated movie-going event of the season," said Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, "and our surveys indicate that the action in 'Part 2' may be driving new moviegoers to see the grand finale."
The draw of the film finale was big enough to get Sharlynne Legere, 17, of Madera, to arrive at 6 a.m. at the Edwards Fresno Stadium 21. She's never stood in line so long to see any other movie.
Brionna Hamilton, 27, and Julie Nguyen, 26, both of Fresno, waited in line all day despite having seen the film almost two weeks ago in Los Angeles. They spent five days participating in special events as part of a "Twilight" tent city of more than 2,500 "Twilight" fans who waited outside the Nokia Theatre for a chance to see the film's premiere with the cast.
"There were no guarantees. We drove several hours down to be there, but there were people there from Chile, Argentina, Australia and all around the world," Hamilton said. "After the cast went down the red carpet, security came over and asked how many we had in our group. We got to go in and got to see the movie."
Jordyn Smith, 14, woke up early to go to a doctor's appointment but ended up in the long line outside the Regal Manchester Cinema 16 to get into the theater for a marathon screening of all the "Twilight" movies.
"We stopped in the parking lot and that's when I found out my brother had bought tickets for us to see the movies," Jordyn Smith says. "This is the best birthday gift ever."
Her older brother, Jajuane Smith, held on to the special gift for months because his sister's birthday was in September and he didn't want to spoil the surprise.
TV and movie criticRick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.