December 1, 2008

While I Was Away: Twilight Kicked Ass

Last week while I was away it looks like Twilight blew away everyone's box office expectations. Summit (the studio) said they would be happy with $20 million, were hoping for $30 million, and would have been thrilled beyond belief for $40 million. But they all underestimated the anticipation and the opening weekend gross was $70 million.

That number is a serious blockbuster number. What makes it all the more interesting is that 75% of the opening weekend tickets were bought by women, so that means unequivocally that women can open movies. All the boy action films NEED women to attend to make their huge numbers, but it seems that on occasion, (especially with good marketing and a built in highly anticipated audience) women can make some serious box office news without the guys. And the audience was not only the under 25 girls. 45% of the tickets bought on opening weekend were by women over 25. Paul Dergarabedian who tracks box office trends said: "The box-office clout of the female audience is just astounding, and it's been an underserved audience for way too long. ... They have no trouble finding money for the things they're passionate about."

(I can't comment on the content because I was in a place with no movie theatres (GASP) and have not yet seen it. I know that many people are commenting on whether it is anti-feminist but I am only half way through the book so I will reserve my comments for later.)

Catherine Hardwicke became the woman with the highest opening weekend gross. (In case you were wondering who held the title until now- that would be Mimi Leder who helmed Deep Impact which grossed $41 million.) All of Hollywood should be beating on her door since she was able to make this film on a limited $39 million budget. Both stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are signed on for the sequel which was greenlit on opening weekend (duh!) but Hardwicke has yet to secure her deal (she wants a bigger budget for the next film and I would guess a bigger paycheck for herself.)

Here's what Hardwicke had to say about how maybe her success could influence others, especially girls.

"I hope not just women but all minorities get enthused and encouraged by it. I look at the (Directors Guild of America) calendar, at the pictures of everyone that had different movies each month, and it's usually 22-29 different directors, and almost every month there's one female and maybe one minority," she said. "We've been having a lot of events, talking to a lot of fans, and so many kids of course are madly in love with Robert but tons of kids of every kind (and) girls are coming up to me and saying `I want to direct now, I'm writing a screenplay now, you're my inspiration.' I think it's great that people are getting excited." (AP)
But Hollywood moves so slowly and it looks like we might lose the momentum of 2008 (Sex and the City, Mamma Mia, Baby Mama, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Hannah Montana). Early 2009 looks like a vast wasteland for women's films. There will be the roll out of Last Chance Harvey in January and a Renee Zellweger romance with Harry Connick Jr., but aside from the Sarah Jessica Parker political piece Spinning Into Butter and the touching Amy Adams/Emily Blunt Sunshine Cleaning the early part of the year looks dismal. The first big highlight of 2009 will be the Meryl Streep/Amy Adams starrer Julie and Julia directed by Nora Ephron in May.

So here we go again. Instead of putting out movies for women with regularity we will continue to have to settle for bursts and then back to a trickle. We need more women's movies in the pipeline so that when we have successess we can build on them instead of having to continue to prove our box office clout every year.

`Twilight' is the new breed of chick flick (AP)