NEW YORK – Hot off the tail of the New Moon premiere, this week’s Entertainment Weekly explores the phenomenon that is the Twilight series.
Chris Weitz opens the door to his beach house looking like a wilted rose. He’s unshaven, pale and wearing clothes he appears to have found wadded in a ball on his bedroom floor. It’s exactly the way you’d expect to find the director the morning after his movie The Twilight Saga: The New Moon opened around the world to numbers no one thought possible. But Weitz isn’t recovering from a long night of revelry. He’s just exhausted. In the last ten days, he’s been in more time zones than the sun, on the last stretch of promotional duties for his movie. “I’m at the point of physical collapse,” says Weitz, 40. “Hopefully I will now lapse into obscurity. That’s my plan.”
We can think of 140 million reasons that’s not going to happen – all of them dollars. On opening weekend, New Moon made the kind of money usually reserved for comic-book heroes and boy wizards, breaking records for midnight screenings and Friday box office. More significantly, Weitz has made the highest grossing female-oriented movie since James Cameron opened Titanic in 1997. And, with Sandra Bullock scoring a career best opening with $34.5 million for The Blind Side, he’s taken part in one of the most female-driven weekends in history--one that should wake up whatever Hollywood executives still underestimate the spending power of the purse. Still, Weitz won’t make any grand claims for himself. “The degree of credit I can take is limited,” he says. “I’m just the glorified conductor.”
OK, he’s got a point. Those hundreds of tween girls, and grown women for that matter, that lined up days in advance of New Moon’s Los Angeles premiere weren’t sleeping on concrete to see Weitz. They were desperate for Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson and Taylor Lautner--who, despite the microscopic level of scrutiny they’re under, still seem to appreciate their supporters. “I would rather spend tonight hanging with the fans than answering any more questions,” said Stewart at the premiere. Pattinson added, “I don’t know how the Beatles felt but I imagine it was close to this. Very few human beings will ever get to experience the love we feel at Twilight events.” That visceral, obsessive amour for everything in Stephenie Meyer’s literary world has turned a $50 million teenage melodrama into an event that knows no geographic boundaries. The global take for the weekend? $258 million. Says producer Wyck Godfrey, “It’s a worldwide cultural phenomenon that no one could have predicted.”
Pop culture has been bursting with blood-suckers of late and audiences are clearly responding- as evidenced by the success of CW’s Vampire Diaries, HBO’s True Blood and a slew of vampire novels which hit the best-seller lists in the wake of Twilight. But what Hollywood has to figure out now is what to do with this audience next. “It’s great that the greenlighters in town have realized that little girls go to the movies,” say MGM’s president of marketing Michael Vollman. “But this genre has worked forever. To Sir With Love was an angsty girl movie.”
So what will this fickle, yet incredibly devoted audience turn to next? Disney and producer Godfrey think it might be… fairies. They’ve scooped up Aprilynne Pike’s best-selling young adult novel Wings. New Regency is banking on a new novel from Ann Brashares (author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) about a college couple who turn out to be soul mates who’ve been loving and losing each other for centuries. And Lionsgate is hoping tweens line up for an adaptation of author Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, about a dystopian world where teenagers fight to the death. “Some will work and some won’t,” Summit’s co-chairman and CEO Rob Friedman says of the girl-driven projects. “There will be a lot of impersonators. But it won’t be the Twilight Saga and it won’t have the fan base. Twilight is unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Neither has director Weitz, who’s still recovering. He’s defiantly off the hook for the third Twilight movie, Eclipse, which David Slade (30 Days of Night) is already editing for release next summer. But what if Meyer and Summit come calling again for the fourth and final novel, Breaking Dawn? The studio still hasn’t decided if the book should be one film or two. But if they call, will Weitz answer? “I’d do it for Stephenie, Rob, Taylor, and Kristen. I feel a great deal of gratitude for those people,” says Weitz. “But I don’t think I could do another press tour like we did. I just think I would die.” Careful, you might come back as a vampire.
Entertainment Weekly also showcases the Breakout Beauties & Beasts of New Moon that have growing fan-bases of their own. The newly anointed stars include Alex Meraz, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Chaske Spencer, Michael Sheen, Anna Kendrick, and Charlie Bewley.
(Cover Story, Page 34)