Cinemas across the country were packed out by young romantics desperate to see the latest instalment in the gripping Twilight saga.
Chaste frenzy greets the New Moon
The two girls really could not wait a moment longer. Aparna Pariyadath and Kanishka Uttamchandi, both 12, were counting down the minutes until the cinema doors opened to show New Moon, which opened across the country yesterday.
They were among the hordes of excited teenage girls who crammed into cinemas yesterday, desperate to be among the first to see the latest instalment in the smash-hit Twilight series of vampire movies "We've read all the books, more than five times," said Kanishka. Her friend Aparna said the tale was gripping. "The story is really romantic. It can capture a teenager's mind." Although many young female fans were looking forward to watching the two male leads - the vampire Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattison, and the werewolf Jacob Black, played by Taylor Lautner - it was Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, who really drew them in.
"Bella is weird," said Sara Johanssom, 15. "That's why we like her, because she's different." "She doesn't care about the usual stuff that teenage girls like," said Fatin Baniz, also 15. New Moon was shown for the first time in the UAE at two special screenings at midnight on Wednesday. Every ticket was sold long before the event. It was a similar story for the film's general release. "Most of the sessions are selling out well in advance of the actual timing. Even the early-morning sessions are all selling out," said Adon Quinn, the manager of Cinestar Cinemas in Abu Dhabi Marina Mall.
"People were asking for tickets a month in advance." Twilight, the first in the saga, was an unexpected hit in the UAE. "This is following on the build-up from the US, where it was the biggest opening ever, as helped get more publicity here," said Mr Quinn. New Moon has become a huge hit, making US$73 million (Dh268m) in its first day in the US, smashing The Dark Knight's previous opening-day record of $66.4m. It has also broken the record for a midnight opening, earning $26m in the US. It sold more pre-booked tickets than Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; or The Dark Knight.
So who are the fans fuelling such record-breaking ticket sales? "They are obviously teenagers, but even ladies in their 20s and 30s are coming," said Mr Quinn "I think the boyfriends are getting dragged along too." Twilight's story of chaste love has resonated particularly with female cinemagoers. "He's a vampire and she's an ordinary girl," explained Laila Harb, 21, an interior design student. "The whole thing about impossible love and the drama is exciting. The thrill of it."
The romantic element was the reason Reem Darwish, 13, had read all the books at least twice. She is already anticipating the other two films in the series. "Ever since I read the book I've been waiting for it badly. I am so excited. It's about vampires and werewolves and romance and drama. I love drama." Grace Eroy, 34, a Filipina consultant, was at Mall of the Emirates yesterday afternoon with her friend Ramone Olavydez, 38. Ms Eroy described herself as a Twilight fanatic, but her companion was not so sure.
"She had to force me to come here and see it," said Mr Olavydez. "It reminds me of all the excitement of Harry Potter. People were storming the bookstores to get copies of it. It's like that here, almost." Had he watched the movie? "Yeah," he said, somewhat reluctantly. Ms Eroy, however, said she was a confirmed Twilight die-hard. "I've seen it [the film] 20 times - really! Before it came to the cinemas in the UAE, I watched it on the internet."
She said she had read all four books by Stephenie Meyer, too. "They're much better than the movie. There's more detail." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com