Twilight Eclipses Bolt, Bond
By John Hamann
November 23, 2008
Here's the news we've all been waiting for. Twilight, the new film aimed at teen girls, opened to a very loud $70.5 million, from Summit Entertainment, the distributor no one has heard of. Twilight started on Friday with $35.7 million, the second biggest single day in November box office history. Combined with the recent opening weekend success of High School Musical 3, studios will be awed at the power of the teen girl in terms of box office. The Twilight opening, combined with the debut of Disney's Bolt and the second weekend of Quantum of Solace, will make for one of the more memorable weekends in box office history.
As I mentioned above, Twilight, the small film featuring a love story between a human girl and a male vampire, is our number one film of the weekend with an awesome opening weekend take of $70.5 million. Twilight earned $7.5 million from midnight screenings on Thursday night, and combined that with a huge Friday for an opening day gross of $35.7 million. That's more than any film from Summit Entertainment, the distributor of Twilight, has ever made (Never Back Down was their biggest domestic grosser at $25 million). It basically recouped the production budget ($37 million) in one day, which must be smashing expectations even for the studio. The opening is the fourth biggest for the month of November, behind three Harry Potter films. Ironically, Twilight's star, Robert Pattinson, also was a lead character in the top opening November film of all time, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The biggest news is that Twilight blew the cover off expectations, with many analysts looking for a $50-60 million opening. To crush estimates to this degree is startling, and again historic. Twilight did something no one expected it to do, which is the mark of any hugely successful breakout hit. It crossed over into hidden and unexpected demographics.
How did Twilight open so large, and cross over into this unexpected demographic territory? At its essence, Twilight is a media-driven success that was charted masterfully by upstart distributor Summit Entertainment. No matter where you turned this week, Twilight was in your face. Pictures of screaming girls lined up in the dark on Thursday thrust this one front and center into the limelight, and obviously, new facets of the population wanted to see what they were on about. David Mumpower mentioned "Tween girls and cougars" as the target in his Weekend Forecast, but obviously this one developed a broader audience; otherwise, the earlier tracking estimates for Twilight would have been more correct. Also at play is the success of the book, with four of the titles in this series appearing in the top sic sales at Amazon.com. You need more than teen girls to sell this many books. Summit kept the author, Stephenie Meyer, in play throughout the production of the movie, and brought on Melissa Rosenberg to adapt the novel into a screenplay. Again, this was a smart move, as Rosenberg understood the dark side of human nature (Dexter), but also knew how to write for the tween/teen set (The OC). Summit also didn't give up on marketing just because they knew they had the next big thing. There have been a few times we've seen blockbusters replace traditional movie marketing with video game tie-in marketing, or just minimize costs by lowering the ad budget. We didn't see that with Twilight; we saw saturation marketing all week, and this is the payoff.