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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Eclipse

Can 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' bring new fans into the fold?

June 30, 2010 | 10:53 pm


Two rules are axiomatic in the slippery business of Hollywood franchises:

A) The second movie in a franchise usually grosses more than the first, even when that second film is clearly inferior (see under: "The Matrix Reloaded").

B) The third movie then dips down again (see under: "Spider Man 3," "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" and many others).

The idea is that a movie gains fans as it moves between the first and second installments, as people who missed it in theaters hear about it, rent it and grow their enthusiasm. But if someone hasn't discovered it by No 2., they probably aren't going to find it by the time a third movie comes around -- while, at the same time, some of the diehards naturally get distracted and lose interest between the second and third films. Think of a bell curve, with the second movie sitting at the top.

But as with many other things this summer (like quality), Rule A has been turned on its head. "Iron Man 2"  and "Sex and the City 2" will actually wind up earning less than their original installments (in the case of "Sex and the City," much less). People got tired of these properties a lot sooner than they usually do, and they certainly weren't willing to put up with a lesser movie, even for a familiar brand.

In light of the first axiom being upended, it's fair to ask if "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" can disprove the second axiom: Namely, can its third installment actually earn more than the second? The magic number to hit in the United States is $297 million -- a high bar, but one that's not impossible. It's already off to a strong start. As my colleague Ben Fritz writes, midnight showings of the Kristen Stewart-Rob Pattinson film on Wednesday topped $30 million, and the film will pick up steam as it heads into the weekend. The $297 million number is within reach.

One factor in favor of the movie pulling it off? Only seven months have passed since the last movie. That's not a lot of time for people to get tired or see their attention drift. So there won't be much audience bleeding.

But will there be an infusion of new fans? In talking about the prospects for "Eclipse," some will point to the fact that David Slade's take on the vampires and werewolves is (slightly) better than Chris Weitz's "New Moon." That may be so, but it doesn't necessarily mean more fans -- it's hard to imagine someone who likes the Stephenie Meyer novels sitting out "New Moon" because the buzz is bad but coming back for "Eclipse." With this kind of franchise, once you're in, you're in. You don't drift out for one film and then come back.

Even without a burst of new people though, this movie could still end up earning more than "New Moon," for a simple reason: repeat viewing. That factor has always been key to the success of "Twilight" and tween franchises in general. And with perhaps a (slightly) better movie this time around -- and the fact that, with this one, teenagers are off from school and have more time on their hands -- there may be an uptick in the number of people who go again.

It may well be impossible for more people on God's green earth to love this franchise. But it may turn out that it's somehow possible for the same people to love it even more.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Rob Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Credit: Summit


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LAFF 2010: Dispatches from the land of Rob Pattinson and the 'Twilight: Eclipse' premiere

June 24, 2010 | 10:45 pm

Downtown Los Angeles saw some of the same fan pandemonium tonight as it did last Thursday -- only there wasn't a Lakers player in sight. (Well, except for Ron Artest.)

He and hundreds of screaming fans turned out to see the world premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and greet the cast of the film, the fans shouting an uncomplicated "Rob! Rob! Rob!" as they waited for Rob Pattinson -- Edward Cullen, of course, in the franchise -- to make his way to the theater.

Indeed, all of the vamps and werewolves (including Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene and almost everyone else from the cast) walked the red carpet as the electric (read: camping-out-for-days) fans stood by at the premiere that's playing as part of -- or is it adjacent to? -- the Los Angeles Film Festival. The fans wore their hearts on their sleeves, as well as on their shirts, caps and posters (sample messages: "I want to play 'Pat the Pattinson,' " "My heart goes nutz for Lutz" and the cut-to-the-chase "Taylor take off your shirt now!"). Meanwhile, a host of celebs walked the red carpet, including Artest, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Love Hewitt and various "Dancing With the Stars" alumni.

It wasn't exactly the kind of fanfare typical of the films screened at the festival (which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Times). The very fact of the premiere, indeed, has raised some questions. Though the screening of the Summit film brings in scores of celebrities and press attention, it also runs the risk of alienating the festival's core clientele of indie-film fans.

The Twi-hards at the premiere, however, weren't paying much mind to that -- they were too busy juggling markers, books and cameras. And as Pattinson made his way down the carpet in a sleek maroon suit, they jumped and screamed with excitement -- something that Pattinson acknowledged makes him a bit anxious.

"It's still such a struggle in the car on the way here," Pattinson confessed to us on the red carpet. "I'm like, 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.' "

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the "Twilight" franchise. Credit: Summit Entertainment [For the Record: An earlier version of this caption incorrectly identified Robert Pattinson as Taylor Lautner.]


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The Cheat Sheet: Eclipse

Will audiences ever want to see the 'Twilight' stars do anything else?

March 22, 2010 |  7:08 pm

If there's one actress who could push a "Behind the Music-"style docudrama about a 1970s all-girl band to the top of the box-office charts, it's Kristen Stewart.

So why couldn't she do it?

"The Runaways," Floria Sigismondi's biopic that, of course, stars Stewart as femme-punk icon Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as her bandmate-rival-lover Cherie Currie, earned an extremely modest $800,000 in its opening weekend. For most limited releases, that number wouldn't be horrible. But the film opened on 244 screens, meaning it averaged a paltry $3,300 per screen. Given the die-hards (or Twi-hards) you'd expect would turn out for a Kristen Stewart debut, those numbers aren't impressive; in fact, they're a lot more punk than glam.

Pundits on Monday had plenty of reasons for the disappointing performance. Certainly the movie's R-rating hurt; younger Stewart fans might have bought tickets had they not been restricted from doing so by the MPAA. (Bob Berney, the head of distributor Apparition, noted that the rating "possibly ke[pt] some of the younger audience away.")

But there may be a deeper lesson here about Stewart: For all her acting versatility, when she strays from her "Twilight" wheelhouse, the fans don't roll with her. That was, after all, also the message some experts gleaned from her first post-"Twilight" movie, "Adventureland," which grossed just $16 million domestically despite getting some marketing play as a Stewart vehicle (and not three months after "Twilight" blew off the box-office doors). It's a lesson that's especially pointed with "Runaways" because Stewart, in inhabiting the role of Joan Jett, is in many ways picking up where Bella Swan left off. She's playing the moody rebel in both, yet fans apparently only want to see her playing a certain kind of moody rebel.

A similar point could be inferred from Stewart's "Twilight' co-star Robert Pattinson, who just last week released his first mainstream movie in which he doesn't play a vampire. With the romantic drama "Remember Me," Pattinson was taking on a genre even more difficult than period music-themed biopics, but, like Stewart, was also echoing parts of his "Twilight" performance (the tortured-lover part).

That should have locked up a chunk of his fan base.  But the movie wound up grossing $14 million in its first two weeks -- a (slightly) more impressive number than "Runaways" until you realize it opened on more than 2,000 screens. Its per-screen opening of $3,600, it turns out, mirrors Stewart's own lackluster weekend.

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