The Number One Movie in America - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

By Sean Collier

May 18, 2020

Breaking Dawn

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Even more than other fan-driven franchises, the “Twilight” series provided remarkably similar box-office returns.

“Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” had some variation between individual entries, as interest in their respective series ebbed and flowed. Famously, the “Divergent” series never made it to the final chapter as fan support tanked.

“Twilight,” however, experienced only insignificant variation between its chapters. The original film was actually the least successful; fervor for the YA brand was still on the rise. “Twilight” earned $192 million in 2008; after that, the figures barely budge. “New Moon” earned $296 million. “Eclipse,” $300 million. The first half of “Breaking Dawn” pulled in $281 million; the second, $292 million.

These fans stick around, apparently. There are even overall charts with “Twilight” films all bunched together: The 27th, 28th and 29th highest-grossing weekends in history all star Edward and Bella.

“Breaking Dawn — Part 1” is the only meaningful downturn in the series’ box-office performance, and meaningful is putting it mildly; it finished a mere $19 million off from the franchise’s top earner. Still, there was a dip between “Eclipse” and the first “Breaking Dawn.” I think it’s because “Breaking Dawn” is deeply, deeply weird.

The film begins with the long-awaited marriage of human Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen. (It’s a long-awaited wedding in franchise terms, if not in human years; Bella’s still only 18.) After that, the pale pair jet off to Brazil for a honeymoon and the PG-13 consommation of their nuptials.

After that: Hoo boy.


Bella is injured, a product of the ... forcefulness of Edward’s superhuman copulation. This puts him on a guilt trip, even as she insists she’s fine. Within a few days, it becomes clear that she’s pregnant with a rapidly developing, half-vampiric fetus, which is also maybe killing her from the inside (and will probably destroy her during the birthing process). After a ham-fisted pro-choice metaphor, Bella struggles to bring her pregnancy to (brief) term while the werewolves, led by her estranged buddy Jacob, rebel at the prospect of a vampire/human hybrid child.

Except Jacob is in love with the unborn baby.

If I could explain that in a way that would make it less weird, I would, but there is no amount of extra explanation that achieves that goal.

Even after the better part of a decade, “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” maintains its reputation as the weirdest entry in the series. (Although they’re all pretty weird, honestly.) Its predecessors were nominally works of romance; the final chapter was the conclusion. This one, it seemed, drove some casual viewers off with the promise of violent inter-species assignations and debilitating pregnancy.

The fans still turned out, of course, because “Twilight” devotees are remarkably loyal. A new chapter in the series — or at least, a retelling of certain events — has recently been announced. If it gets the big-screen treatment, I’m sure the fans will turn up.

Probably in just the right numbers to make about $290 million.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” is the subject of the latest episode of The Number One Movie in America, a look back at past box-office champions. Each episode’s film is drawn at random from a list of every number-one movie since 1982. Please listen and subscribe!

Next time: A trilogy we didn’t know was a trilogy comes to an unsatisfactory end.



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