The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened with $142M its first weekend, earned over $230M in less than two weeks ($473M, if you count the global box office), and broke records previously held by male-oriented tent pole releases like The Dark Knight (in Single Day Sales). So now that other studios have taken note of the vampire saga as a legit and bankable franchise and not a one-off fluke, how could New Moon change Hollywood?
That’s a question pundits have been asking since New Moon‘s numbers started rolling in two weekends ago, indicating that the sequel had bigger potential than anticipated. By opening day, it had already topped the entire opening weekend take of the first film ($72M over $69.6M a year ago). By yesterday, the LA Times had deemed success a “problem” for Summit Entertainment, a studio whose stock has risen as fast as the quickening pulses of a theater full of tweeners and TwilightMoms watching Taylor Lautner take off his shirt.
So how could the increasing successes of Twilight and New Moon affect how movies are made and sold? We consider what New Moon‘s popularity could mean for Hollywood.
Female audiences demand to be catered to.
Twilight was always a female-oriented property, thanks to a high quotient of moony eyes, forbidden love, and romantic longing courtesy of author Stephenie Meyer. And studio execs perked up when the fantasy book-turned-indie film raked in over $69M its opening weekend, making back its budget by double. But as evidenced by worldwide masses of screaming fans, a sprawling fansite community, and its blockbuster box office performance, New Moon is no accidental success – women will buy tickets, they will go multiple times to the movies, and they will bring their friends/daughters/mothers. And they’ll even go to horror-themed movies – that is, if the movie gives them what they want. (See below.)
Summit is now a studio model.
From the start, Summit Entertainment did the best job it could have done to spin itself a mega franchise out of an otherwise unnoticeable vampire love story. Now, it’s a major player with a diverse upcoming slate that includes another Robert Pattinson vehicle and a smattering of rom-coms and family flicks. While Summit may not make a smash hit out of every film (their 2008 horror pic Sorority Row was a modest financial success, but barely) they will use the enormous profits from New Moon to build the studio and finance its expansion, moving from a tiny studio that specialized in obscure genre pics (remember P2?) to a mainstream distributor with the power to slot a vampire movie next to a sci-fi actioner (Knowing) and a potential Oscar picture (The Hurt Locker).
And how’d they do it? The New Moon campaign benefited as much from the public’s obsession with its “are they or aren’t they?” on-screen couple (AKA Robsten) as it did from the deliberate releases of new clips and photos from the film, which became events in themselves. Summit also took note of and worked with the fansite community, rewarding their footwork with all-important access and ensuring that their built-in audience stayed interested.
Moms are getting in on the action.
The majority of women ticket buyers older than 25, and that means older women are devouring a movie about werewolves and vampires. (Of course they’re going for the romance, but still.) You see, we ladies want movies about more than female drama and shopping – I’m looking at you, Sex and the City – and we’re interested in fantasy and science fiction and yes, even horror. A healthy helping of romance never hurts, either. If we like what we see in a genre film, we’ll get behind a franchise, a fact not lost on the team behind James Cameron’s Avatar, a science-fiction epic that 20th Century Fox hopes will capture the elusive, important female demographic.
Huffington Post writer Danny Groner has another explanation: thanks to New Moon, mothers and older women are learning to explore beyond their age group, indulging in teen-oriented fare likeTwilight to re-capture their youth. Hence, the rise of the self-proclaimed “cougar,” Twilight Moms, and the reason you’ll see so many middle-aged women at any given screening of New Moon.
Fangirls are a force to be reckoned with.
Fandom has long been the territory of males, so it’s refreshing to see a self-contained community ofTwilight fangirls growing steadily. They devour Twilight trivia, publish meticulous blogs on every aspect of the franchise and its stars’ lives, and have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter. And some of them, too, still live with their parents. (The difference being fangirls also have real jobs and take showers. Zing!) Twilight fangirls are just as powerful and just as nerdy as fanboys – and maybe now studios and the fanboy community can finally take them seriously.
The sprawling network of fansites demonstrates a viral potential in fervent female audiences that any studio will want to harness in the future; but first, they’ll have to learn how to work with them. Fandom is a force of nature so strong that it can hurt a franchise just as easily as help it if the fans are not kept happy. So it will be important for studios to first respect the power of the fangirl community, and then cater to it – because as New Moon demonstrates, one can stoke an already-huge fire, if one puts enough pretty boys and make-out scenes in a film.
Beefcake is critic proof.
New Moon gave us what even Twilight did not: scene after scene of shirtless beefcake. There was a time when women ogled the male body en masse; after all, isn’t that what Playgirl is for? In recent years that objectification has waned, partly thanks to the rise of the sensitive emo boy, a type of wan romantic male more appealing for his tortured feelings than his biceps. But New Moon gives it to us both ways: boys who have feelings AND hairless, exposed chests!
I’m not saying it would be a benefit to cinema, but should Hollywood take note and inject their films with more hunky man meat, they might see more female butts in seats. And not the old guy kind; old guys (read: 35 and up) are not hot to younger women. But 20-something beefcake is universal!