"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” grossed $30.3 million from midnight showings early Friday morning according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment, and it appears to be on pace to have the biggest opening yet for any movie in the vampire franchise adapted from author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels.
24 Frames checked in with some fans who came out for the movie’s first screenings at the Rave Motion Pictures 18, which showed the vampire flick on five screens at 12:01 a.m., with one additional showing at 12:45 a.m. Many people at the theater were continuing a tradition of seeing each installment at midnight that dated back to the 2009 debut of the second "Twilight" movie, “New Moon.”
“We’ve been doing it for two or three years. You wait all year to watch it, so you might as well come and see it at midnight,” said Alejandra Toribio, 21, of Long Beach.
“I feel like the movie’s always better when you see it before it’s really out,” said Liz Hook, 14, of Westchester, who came to the movie in her pajamas with her twin sister and a friend.
The audience was by far mostly female, but there were a few men on hand to support their friends and some fathers bringing young daughters to watch Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) marry her undead beau Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), despite the protestations of her best friend, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).
“I’m not a fan. I’m just here to support my friends. I’m just dragged along,” said Jay Rice, 24, of Gardena.
His friend Yontique McHenry, 21, of Harbor City said to him, “People are gonna see this [article], and they’re gonna beat you up because you’re a fake fan. And you have a seat!”
“Go 'Twilight,' ” he responded, flashing a thumbs-up.
There were the occasional guys who considered themselves true fans, though, including 25-year-old Alexander Solis of South Gate, who donned a “Twilight” sweatshirt and T-shirt for the event. So what’s his answer to the great “Twilight” debate?
“Team Edward. Because he will be marrying Bella!” said Solis, who bought his ticket for the movie a month ago.
Favorite characters varied from Jacob (“I don’t find Edward attractive. He’s too pale,” said Rosario Carrera, 31, of Orange County) to Jasper, a vampire played by Jackson Rathbone.
“I’m Team Jasper. I think he’s funny-looking. In the film he’s all crazy-eyed,” Hook said.
Melissa Nelson, 31, of Torrance, said she was eager to see how the movie depicted Bella's surprise pregnancy -- in the film, she and Edward conceive a child on their honeymoon, though carrying the baby to term threatens Bella's life -- because of how she was introduced to the series. Nelson said she watched the first movie on a portable DVD player while her cousin was in labor.
“I was her birthing partner… While we were waiting for the baby to come, we were like, ‘Might as well watch a movie,’ ” Nelson said. “I’m really interested to see the transformation of [Bella’s] body when she’s pregnant.”
Nelson came to see the movie with other adult friends, but on Saturday she plans to bring young cousins and her 4-year-old son –- who’s Team Jacob and “can recite the movies for you” she said -– after she makes “sure it’s child appropriate” at the midnight screening. “He asked today, ‘Well, when am I going to see ‘Twilight’? Cause you know the new one is out today and we have to go see it,’ ” Nelson explained.
She said her husband scoffs at the series. “He says they’re fake vampires. He’s like, ‘How do they walk around in the daylight?’ ”
As for the franchise's enduring popularity, most fans chalked it up to the sweeping romance of the supernatural tale.
“It’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for now,” said Dawn Fagenson, 45, of Brentwood, who owns a cardboard cutout of Lautner as Jacob and has traveled to Forks, Wash., where the series takes place.
“It’s a very classic story,” said Jennifer Daskevich, 43, of Westchester. “They’ve done really well with marketing to younger people. We don’t really fit into that category, but they’ve done a really good job of casting young, dynamic people. It’s a great love story.”
A number of moviegoers cited their awe for the “great love story," but there were a few who were more cynical. Liz Hook’s sister, Joans, discovered the series when she was in fifth grade and “was really into them” upon the first read.
“And then after I read them, I was like, ‘Why did I read these? These are really stupid,’ ” she said. “Bella’s so desperate. She needs a man in her life, otherwise she cannot function. So I really hate the point of it, but it’s just fun to go [to the movies] with your friends.”
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–- Emily Rome
Photo: Robert Pattinson, left, and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment