With tickets going on sale today and everyone anxiously awaiting each section of the upcoming final poster, we’re going to take a look this week at the grand finale of one of the most consistent franchises of the last five years, and a true phenomenon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Many big franchises have tried their best to build up to a big finish– “The Lord of the Rings,” the “Star Wars” prequels and The Matrix Revolutions were three. It’s always been a difficult trick to keep the audience interested until the very end, and because of that, the franchise that will probably be best remembered for doing everything just right is the “Harry Potter” series, which ended last summer to the tune of $7.7 billion worldwide split between eight installments.
“The Twilight Saga,” based on the romantic vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer, has tried to keep pace with those, becoming a true phenomenon at the box office by continually surpassing all expectations. It almost seems like we’ve grown up with Bella, Edward and Jacobor at least that might be the case if you’re a 15-year-old girl and not a man well into his AGE RANGE REMOVED, because somehow, Summit figured out how to spread Meyer’s series of four “Twilight Saga” books over the course of four years and five movies and making enough money to keep the studio thriving.
While being a man of a certain age I never quite understood their appeal, the movies have made Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner household names, even if it’s hard to judge how well starring in the “Twilight” movies has helped their rankings as box office stars.
Stewart probably had been acting the longest of the cast, having co-starred with Jodie Foster in David Fincher’s Panic Room ten years ago. She continued to take on roles even after the “Twilight” craze began, mostly appearing in indie films like Adventureland, the rock biopic The Runaways playing a young Joan Jett, and the Sundance indie Welcome to the Rileys. None of them seemed to do more business due to Stewart’s presence, but the movie that finally proved that she could carry a non-“Twilight” movie was the summer blockbuster Snow White and the Huntsman, which opened with $56.2 million and grossed $155 million domestically.
While Pattinson came from the world of “Harry Potter,” appearing in the fourth movie as Cedric Diggory, that was before Twilight. Since then, he starred in four movies, Remember Me, which grossed $20 million, and Water for Elephants, co-starring Reese Witherspoon, which ended up just under $60 million. His two most recent movies, the indies Bel Ami and Cosmopolis, didn’t even make a million. Lautner’s only been in two movies outside the “Twilight” movies since taking on the role of Jacobfor Valentine’s Day, he was part of a large ensemble cast, but when he led the action-thriller Abduction, it was a pretty big bomb, grossing less than $30 million domestically.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Robert and Kristen’s highly-publicized break-up over the latter’s indiscretions with her Snow White and the Huntsman director which led to quite a bit of outrage among those who cared. Apparently, they’re trying to work things out, maybe because they know they’ll be doing a lot of press together for Breaking Dawn Part 2 in a couple weeks. Of course, the fact they’re trying to work things out may confirm long-running rumors that the two of them were only together for the sake of promoting the movie since having a romance between the two lead actors may help make the fans believe in their romance on screen.
Not that any sense of romance ever had much effect on the cold hearts of the critics. Their response to the four previous “Twilight” movies is interesting because while they haven’t given any of them overwhelmingly positive reviews, they seem to like every other movie just a bit more. The original Twilight scored a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, while the sequel New Moon barely had half as many critical fans. Eclipse once again had improved reviews but then Breaking Dawn – Part 1 was generally hated.
Those bad reviews have never hurt the movie or detracted Meyer’s fanbase. The very first movie grossed less than $200 million domestically and nearly $400 million worldwide, but the franchise really took off with the sequel a year later when it opened with $142 million and went onto gross closer to $300 million in North America and over $700 million worldwide and the next movie followed suit. Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened last November to $138.1 million, less than the second installment New Moon two years earlier, and it also ended up below the $300 million mark of “Eclipse.”
That normally might show diminishing returns for a franchise and a chance that they won’t be back, except that Breaking Dawn Part 2 has the benefits of being the final chapter of the franchise. Few people who saw the previous movies will not bother seeing the last movie. As we saw with the two-part Harry Potter finale “Deathly Hallows,” the final chapter ended up doing considerably better than the previous ones, setting a new opening weekend record with $159 million and going on to gross $380 million. (Only two previous movies in the franchise grossed more than $300 million domestically.) Like that movie, the “Twilight” finale offers a much bigger scope as the three heroes must assemble vampire covens from around the globe to stop the Volturi.
It’s probably no surprise that no other studio wanted to release their movie against what would pretty much dominate the weekend, although DreamWorks will expand Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln nationwide, expecting that the older audience for the biopic won’t have much interest in “Twilight.” It also will be facing the second weekend of James Bond’s Skyfall, which should hold up well, again because it’s targeting a different audience.
The past few movies have had huge opening days, which can be accounted for by sold out midnight screenings as the biggest fans rush out to see it. “New Moon” had an opening day of $72.7 million, while “Eclipse” had an opening day of $68.5 million and “Breaking Dawn Part 1″ was back up to $71 million. Summit is expecting a big demand for the movie which is why they’re opening it earlier than the normal midnight screenings with 10PM previews on Thursday, November 15, which we expect will be rolled into the opening day gross to push it over $75 million. Going by the previous movies, Breaking Dawn Part 2 will probably be similarly frontloaded, but it should be able to bring in roughly $150 million by Sunday including those preview screenings. We have a feeling that the movie will end up grossing more than $300 million and besting the top-grossing movie Eclipse, but it probably won’t go that much higher with so many other big movies coming out over the holidays.
Next week, we’re going to look at four of the movies opening over the following Thanksgiving weekend that could take some of its business: DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians, Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (20th Century Fox), the long-delayed remake of Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.