Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2012: #6
Twilight Strikes Midnight
By David Mumpower
January 7, 2013
BOP’s love/hate relationship with Twilight finally concluded in 2012 as the fifth and final Twilight movie was released into theaters. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 was richly anticipated by teen girls everywhere and widely derided by the rest of the civilized world. No matter where any of us stands on the issue, what cannot be ignored is that Twilight was a historic Tentpole franchise.
While I will never be hypocritical enough to pretend to understand the appeal of these cinematic abominations, this author’s opinion is irrelevant. With regard to box office, The Twilight Saga is one of the most important movie licenses of all time. Its absence will leave a gaping void on the schedule each year as new would-be franchises attempt to fill the vacuum left in the absence of further adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire fiction.
The story of Twilight’s rapid ascension is well chronicled by now. Only four years ago, a major publication described Meyer as “the most famous writer you’ve never heard of”. This was not stated ironically. The almost immediate penetration of Meyer’s story into the zeitgeist is a case study in how quickly popularity spreads in the social media era.
During the summer of 2008, MTV began airing ads for a generic gothic tale that bore a surface level resemblance to The Covenant, a previous iteration of the same concept. The Covenant had been a commercial disappointment, barely earning back its $20 million budget during its theatrical run. When BOP noted the similarities between the two projects, more than a few zealots that we later learned were “Twilight Moms” were outraged. This was our first encounter with “TwiHards”. It wouldn’t be the last.
The Twilight Moms described the sweeping love triangle between a werewolf, a vampire and a high school student as a modern take on Wuthering Heights. I maintain that simply by typing these words, a person owes each and every Brontë sister an apology. Also, from a literary perspective, either Jacob or Edward would have to be an antagonist for the premise to hold. But I digress.
What was unmistakable several months prior to the release of Twilight is that the movie had rare buzz for a $37 million production. This premise was later reinforced when Twilight debuted to $36 million on its first day in theaters. A degree in higher mathematics is not a prerequisite to intuit that fledgling distributor Summit Entertainment had a blockbuster on their hands. Twilight eventually earned roughly $400 million worldwide. Even though Vampire Baseball was the funniest scene of 2008, no one could dispute that Twilight was a monster hit. Quick to admit that the scary fans were right for a change, we named the film #6 in our Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2008.
As everyone knows by now, the Twilight franchise was just getting started. After warming up with a quickly antiquated $69.6 million in 2008, the sequel destroyed any and all early expectations. The Twilight Saga: New Moon surpassed the scintillating opening weekend of Twilight…in one day! Its $72.7 million opening day not only set the record for single day box office but also held that title for over a year and a half.
New Moon eventually finished with $142.8 million on opening weekend, thereby more than doubling its already historic predecessor. That tally was the third largest debut of all time up until then and still stands three years later as the seventh best weekend total. New Moon’s final domestic take of $296.6 million represented a $104 million increase from Twilight. That audience expansion occurred in a single calendar year.
In the interim between The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, two other franchise titles were released. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 averaged $291 million domestically as well as $705 million worldwide. By the time the final Twilight movie was released, the franchise had earned $2.5 billion in global box office. This revenue was earned against a financial outlay of only $285 million for the first four productions. An average investment of $71 million returned average box office revenue of $628 million. Twilight is the ultimate get rich scheme.
By the time The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 was released, saturation had become an issue with the franchise. Even at the pace of a release a year, teen girls have a pesky tendency to grow up and discover much more adult fare. Team Jacob vs. Team Edward debates seem so four years ago to them. As such, there was no further box office expansion for the Twilight franchise.
The fifth movie debuted with $141.1 million, the eighth best opening of all-time. New Moon’s total remained the franchise best, though. Similarly, Twilight peaked in terms of domestic box office with Eclipse, the only Meyer adaptation to earn (almost exactly) $300 million. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 maintained the franchise’s flat-line consistency with a $289.2 million gross. Where it did stand out was overseas. Thanks to the evolving global market for North American cinema releases, the final Twilight film easily bested its predecessors worldwide, grossing $814 million and counting. Remarkably, this total is only good enough for fifth place among 2012 releases as consumers move on to new shiny things. Still, the marks that currently stand for Twilight are sublime.
Twilight stakes a claim to a full third of the nine largest opening weekends of all time. In four short years, the vampire love fest accumulated a mind-boggling $3.3 billion in global revenue. Its ascension into the upper stratosphere of merchandising licenses is virtually unprecedented. And its legacy will remain. BOP’s staff may not have ever liked Twilight but we damn sure respect it. This is an industry where financial viability lords over all other characteristics. In this regard, Twilight is the current leader in the clubhouse for new millennium properties.