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MENAFN - Arab Times - 15/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab Times) "Twilight" proved that girls like movies too. Sure there were romantic comedies geared at women, but the movie game's main job of building franchises used to break down firmly along gender lines, with production focusing on male-dominated movies that catered to teenage boys

What is radical about the vampire romances, which wrap up their mega-grossing run this week with the release of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn " Part 2," is that they forced studio executives to acknowledge that fanboys can be fangirls too.

"It's actually remarkable what the 'Twilight' franchise was able to do for girl power," Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told TheWrap. "Before this people didn't know if girls could carry a franchise like 'Star Wars' or 'Harry Potter.' It really did change the paradigm and perceptions about what people will go see."

In the process, the "Twilight" films racked up over 2.5 billion worldwide and upended the old order. Where once there were six major studios, now there are seven.

The merger last January of Summit, the studio that took a bet on "Twilight" when no one else would, and Lionsgate, the one that followed its lead and picked up "The Hunger Games," has created a new player in a crowded field. Moreover, the formula it followed could be embraced by other independent studios.

Franchises

"It took away the preconceived notion that only major studios could create major franchises," a rival studio executive told TheWrap. "There had been other little moderate franchises produced by a smaller player, but there had never been a mega-billion-plus gigantic franchise. It showed that if Summit could do it, then Lionsgate could do it, and maybe one day Open Road will do it."

To put it in a historical context: Universal may have been built on monster movies, Disney's foundation may rest on animation, but Lionsgate-Summit owes its powerhouse status to adaptations of young adult novels aimed at girls.

"Twilight," like "Jaws" or "Avatar," represents one of those rare pivot points in the American movie business. Unlike those films, however, it altered the course of the entertainment industry without eye-popping special effects, critical raves or an action-heavy storyline. Instead, it filled theaters by mixing together a potent cocktail of Victorian-era morality and teenage sexual awakening.

The storyline, a mushy love triangle drawn out over five languid installments, is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, its sexual politics, with a high school age girl torn between a hunky werewolf and a brooding vampire, are decidedly retrograde. Indeed the whole film plays out as an extended metaphor for the dangers of premarital sex.

But a cursory scan of the hormonal teens erecting tent cities outside the "Breaking Dawn" premiere suggests that somewhere along the line the message became muddled.

Based on a series of novels from Stephenie Meyer, "Twilight" was hardly the first movie series to find inspiration on the bestseller list.

Unlike "Harry Potter," however, the "Twilight" novels were unapologetically told through a female lens.

From "Brave" to "Snow White and the Huntsman," the ripples "Twilight" sent forth are still being felt today in a series of movies that focus on strong female protagonists.

It's no mistake that "50 Shades of Grey," the sadomasochistic romance that sparked a bidding war in Hollywood recently, began life as a piece of "Twilight" fan fiction. Even "The Hunger Games" owes its greenlight and subsequent box office bonanza to Bella and Edward.

"Not in a million years would 'Hunger Games' have been made were it not for 'Twilight,'" the executive said.

"Not only would it not have existed, it would never have been a sensation if it had not followed the exact format set forth by the 'Twilight' franchise. It was a paint by numbers job."

Blockbusters

Like "Twilight," these films are for women, starring women and marketed to women. If men get dragged along, great, but these movies can become blockbusters thanks to the double X-chromosome set. For example, when "Breaking Dawn " Part 1" debuted last year to 138.1 million domestically, the audience was 80 percent female. Even films that have only faint traces of "Twilight"s' DNA such as "Bridesmaids" prove that when studios ignore this demographic, they leave profits on the table.

Beyond the gender of its central character, "Twilight" altered the horror genre. Prior to the books and films, analysts say that the idea of injecting romance into a gothic chiller would have been met with derision.

After "Twilight," it became the norm, paving the way for HBO's "True Blood," "Red Riding Hood" and scores of Byronic blood-suckers.

"They made the vampire story no longer just a horror story," Vincent Bruzzese, president of Ipsos' motion picture group, said. "It took something that would have been relegated to a genre mashup and it made it mainstream."

Critics may have hated the movies, with "Breaking Dawn " Part 1" receiving a dismal 25 percent "rotten" score on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, but it didn't matter.

The films registered with tweens and their impact only intensified when the stars of the series, Pattinson and the pouty-eyed Kristen Stewart, took their on-screen romance off-screen.

"It's usually a dangerous thing when people's personal lives get attached to a movie," Phil Contrino, editor-in-chief of BoxOffice.com, told TheWrap. "This was a special case where having the real world enter that space played beautifully with fans."

With Pattinson and Stewart's smooth-sailing romance hitting some shoals recently, their film franchise may be wrapping up at precisely the right moment. In fact, Contrino argues that the final movie in the series could play better with foreign audiences than domestic moviegoers.

The audience stateside is growing up, he said, and is not as likely to swoon at the onscreen amorousness this go round.

Even if that is the case, "Twilight"s' legacy will be felt for years to come.
On a conference call with investors Friday, Lionsgate executives revealed that they had found a new series they think can fill the hole left by "Twilight."

It's called "Divergent," and is based on a series of young adult novels about a teenage girl who rebels against her futuristic society.

Thousands of screaming fans lined the black carpet late on Monday for the final "Twilight" film premiere as the cast of "Breaking Dawn " Part 2" bid farewell to the franchise and its loyal followers.

Pattinson, Stewart, Taylor Lautner and other cast members greeted fans known as "Twi-hards," many of whom had camped out for days in downtown Los Angeles to catch a glimpse of their favorite actors and see the film before it is released in theaters on Friday.

Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will see the love story of human Bella Swan (Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Lautner) come to a tantalizing end, when Bella and Edward are forced to protect their child from an ancient vampire coven.

Stewart, who was finally able to embrace her wild side by playing Bella as a vampire, hoped people would enjoy the ultimate transformation of her character in the film.

"Bella has worked pretty hard to get to the point where they can have it all, and it's fun to be there. She's always been human, but now that she's not, you're just in full blown vampire land and it feels funny in a great way," Stewart told Reuters.

More than 2,200 fans from all over the world came to camp out on a concrete plaza in downtown Los Angeles last week, where Twilight movie studio Summit laid out activities and marathon screenings of the previous movies.

All of the film's main actors spent time signing autographs and posing for photographs with the loyal fans who had camped out in chilly November weather over five days.

Pattinson, who plays vampire Edward Cullen, said he hoped the fans would like the franchise's swan song.

"I hope they feel it kind of respects them, because I think in a lot of ways that's what we were thinking when we were making it," the actor said.

Lautner, who plays werewolf Jacob, said he'd be sad to say goodbye to the films and his character and hoped fans would be happy with the conclusion of the final film.

"I'm feeling fantastic, sad, emotional, there's a lot of things going on inside of me right now but I'm just trying to soak up every moment because this means the world to me," Lautner said.

The three lead stars were joined by fellow cast members including Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, as well as director Bill Condon and author Stephenie Meyer, whose Twilight novels kicked off the franchise and phenomenon.

The "Twilight" mini-camp began last Thursday, with some willing to camp out for days for an autograph, a photo or just a smile from the stars of the movie, the fifth and final installment of the saga.

"I've been here since 'New Moon'," 19-year-old Sean Evans told AFP, referring to the second "Twilight" movie in 2009.

"Before, it was on a first-come, first-served basis, but this year, they had a lottery, and I didn't get camp number 1. I'm on 6, in a parking lot," he said, visibly disappointed.

Camp number 1, which is right next to the black carpet, is clearly the best location but only houses a small fraction - in six rows of tents - of the 2,200 places allocated by lottery by Lionsgate-Summit, which produces the saga.

Fans have traveled from around the world to be here: flags from Britain, Venezuela, France, Spain, Australia and Canada hang from tents alongside posters and other knick-knacks.

One tent is draped with white flowers as a make-shift wedding chapel for "Twilight" heroes Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, and Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson.

Thais Santos came from Belem in northern Brazil with her mother Maria, and won a prized place in Camp Number 1. "My mom helped me because she knows it's my dream," she said.

Her excitement knew no bounds when three actors from the movie - not the major stars themselves - turned up to greet fans in the afternoon, provoking near-hysteria.

"It's an amazing experience. I made so many friends here. I just met the actors and that was amazing, I have autographs and everything ... It's a dream come true," said the 19-year-old.

She said her world is divided into Before Twilight and After Twilight.
"I like Harry Potter, I grew up with Harry Potter," she said, referring to J.K. Rowling's boy wizard. "But in the middle of this 'Twilight' showed up and it was amazing, because I was kind of sad at that time," she said.

"I had problems in my family and 'Twilight' made me happy. Since then I'm another person, it changed me. I'm a more happy person, I made so many friends with 'Twilight'."

Her biggest wish is to meet Stewart, she says.

"I'm crazy about her. I love her more than anything, she's my diva. I want to touch her, just to see if she's real. I hope she will sign on a piece of paper because I want to make a tattoo with it," Santos said.

"I love, love, love her. She's so nice, she's so cool."

Californian Evans says his "hero" is Taylor Lautner, who plays shape-shifting wolf-man Jacob Black. "I've gotten a picture a few time but it's the last premiere, the last time I'm going to camp out for a movie.

"So hopefully I get one last one," said Evans, one of the few boys camping out in a sea of teenage girls.

Well, not only girls: there is also, a little further away, a group of "Twilight Moms."

Jenny Updike left her five children at home in Draper, Utah to come camp out in LA.

"It's such a refreshing love story. I think that Edward, the character, he speaks to every woman's heart. It's the kind of communication and the kind of companionship that every woman wants," she said.

And what is she going to do, once the "Twilight" saga is over? "Just keep my friends, these are my friends and we're going to stick together and have 'Twilight' reunions all the time," she said.

"And have another baby, a sixth one," added the 37-year-old.

 






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