TWILIGHT Sucks Up Box Office

Everyone else is doing it, so here we are to report on the astounding impact of the vampire romance Twilight on its theatrical opening weekend.
Step onto the Internet right now and you're guaranteed to trip over Twilight.

Twilight Twilight Twilight.

And Robert Pattinson. Pattinson Pattinson Pattinson.

In fact, as I type this, another Twilight-related headline just popped up on my RSS feed.

The film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's monster best-selling novel hypnotized audiences and got blood running hot this past weekend. Going into Friday, pundits predicted $60 million at best, but the take actually hit an estimated $70.6 mil -- $35 mil on opening day, with $7 mil of that from Friday midnight screenings alone.

It's an astonishing triumph for Summit Entertainment: the studio has been around only since April '07, and Twilight is its sixth feature, with the horror film P2 and comedy Sex Drive previously being its most high-profile output. This development has blood running hot at Paramount Pictures as well, but not in the good way, since someone at the venerable movie house decided in 2006 that Meyer's series was a dud and let the rights go. What a pain in the neck.

More importantly, Twilight has given director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) the biggest ever opening weekend for a female director and, if the film grosses over $187 mil domestically, she'll be the first female live action helmer on the top 100 grossing movies list.

But she appears to be taking it in stride. Even as Summit announced on Saturday (22 Nov) that the film version of Book #2, New Moon, is going forward, Hardwicke had not signed on.

"I want to be sure that it's going to be done right," she said Sunday. "I don't want to rush into it."

Her decision may be helped by the fact that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is returning for the follow-up and for its successor, Eclipse. (Amusing tidbit: Rosenberg refused to read beyond Twilight while adapting that book, so she's got some reading to do!) And, of course, it will have the full support of the creator.

"I don't think any other author has had a more positive experience with the makers of her movie adaptation than I have had with Summit Entertainment," gushed Meyer in a statement. "I'm thrilled to have the chance to work with them again on New Moon."

Also reupping are Pattinson and love interest Kristen Stewart (right), both of whom remembered, in a letter on Satuday, to thank the people most responsible for the film's success: "To all of our wonderful, loyal and fantastic fans - Thank you from the entire cast and crew for your amazing support of Twilight. You've blown away all of our expectations, and we feel so honored to have made a film that means as much to you as it does to us. Without your passion, interaction and support, this film would not be where it is today -- the #1 movie in America! From every city, every stop, every interview we have done, you've made this an unbelievable, nearly surreal experience...and so cool that we were all in this together."

Publisher Little, Brown hopes to benefit from fan enthusiasm as well, and has released two tie-in editions of Twilight in anticipation of a sales surge that was presaged by a recent spike, according to publicist Elizabeth Eulberg.

Whatever happens with readership, the movie phenomenon looks to make nearly everyone involved quite wealthy, and Summit's president of domestic distribution Richie Say proudly pointed out that it all started with a production budget of only $37 million. "It certainly says what we've been saying all along, that we can do more with less."

You certainly can, so long as you have the unbridled support of America's teen girls.

And Robert Pattinson. Pattinson Pattinson Pattinson.

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