For anyone who thought that the female tween/teen movie market had peaked, The Twilight Saga: New Moon certainly proved them wrong, raking in $275 million worldwide in its opening weekend. It’s a breath of fresh air for Hollywood, at least financially, because it only cost $50 million to make. While there has been no word yet on the marketing budget, even if it cost an additional $50 million there, that means that the film would have to double its $100 million investment to make a profit, which it already has. Let’s also not forgett about all the licensing and merchandising revenes to come. The film has also benefitted from a massive viral marketing campaign, and the persistent rumors of a romance between stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, while most certainly a tabloid gimmick, has helped maintan the interest of the young and heavily female audience (many even older than teenage) that has been flocking to see the second Twilight movie.
But let’s skip past the business babble for a moment and delve into the heart of the matter. (No pun intended.) On a basic, superficial level, why is this series popular? Cute boys swooning over a cute girl, romance galore, beautiful people everywhere and supernatural predators who don’t want to harm their love interest, which is anathema to the vampire world. As a hardcore horror fan, I think that sucks (pun intended), but hey, I’m not 14 nor female. Neither are any Hollywood executives, but perhaps they should start thinking more like them. Author Stephenie Meyer certainly knows her audience.
The economic power of female tweens and teens (in particular) was first truly demonstrated by the phenomenal success of Titanic. Perhaps unintentionally, action director James Cameron was able to tap into this t(w)een world because his film, while also geared towards an adult audience, radiated passion and romance on an epic scale. Plus it was a good movie. Oh yeah, having a dashing, young Leonardo DiCaprio swooning over a gorgeous, charming Kate Winslet didn’t hurt either. Do you think Titanic could have sailed to a $1 billion domestic box office gross and become the #1 highest grossing movie of all time without the help of all of those young women? While t(w)eens have been catered to before through everything from romantic comedies to slasher flicks, the Twilight world is a hybrid that is quite different from typical t(w)eenage fare. And young women are making up most of its audience.
Times have changed. New Moon‘s budget was a mere 25% of the $200 million that Cameron spent on Titanic, but it will probably hit $500 million globally before all is said and done. Yet the premises carried over: romantic love burning in the wake of overwhelming odds. Ok, neither Bella nor Edward have perished, but you get my point. Disney may have a big hold over the female t(w)een market with safer fare like Hannah Montana and High School Musical, but the slightly edgier Twilight is proving that you can cater to that audience and not be quite as vanilla. And make more money. Young women certainly represent a lot of buying power, especially when it comes to art that mirrors their values or desires.
As a red-blooded horror fan, The Twilight Saga holds little interest for me. (Some find its social message for young women disturbing.) But if it can help or inspire studios to bankroll smaller films, not to mention getting them to scale back budgets so more medium sized pictures could be made — especially in areas like horror, sci-fi and fantasy — I’m all for it. As long as they don’t defang or neuter the genres in the process.