"Twilight is a license to print money": Selling the Female Film Franchise

Curator's Note

A recent cycle of high earning female stars and female-driven pictures has created quite a bit of hype around the battle of the sexes at the box office. Much of the current discourse began around 2008 with the successful translation of two female franchises from the page or small screen to film—Twilight and Sex and the City—followed by subsequent sequels released this summer. While SATC 2 fizzled under critical weight upon its May release (or was it those wretched flying carpet jokes), the coverage of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, released this week, predicts the opposite.  What may have been dismissed initially as a mid-range chick flick has matured into a sustainable and lucrative transmedia franchise, as the online comment in my title, or the recent Forbes breakdown suggests. Yet, is the hype around Twilight a real game changer for the contemporary film franchise, an industry strategy historically directed towards/by and oriented around male action heroes, comic book characters and literary icons, or just the exception to the rule?

Indie studio Summit Entertainment may have been slow to recognize the audience power behind the first film, already mentioned by Parke. Oh boy, what a difference two films, and two years, can make, as illustrated by Summit’s amped marketing strategies ranging from fast food to credit cards. With Eclipse, Summit expanded the series through a larger budget, prime summer release date, wider theatrical release including IMAX, record yearly advanced ticket sales, massive fan mobilization online and in person through week-long tent city at the LA premiere site, etc. This blockbuster discourse around the colossal size and market share are not new but reflect releases surrounding Avatar, Dark Knight and, even earlier, Jaws. 

Yet, the strength and saturation of each film continues to receive the same pushback or negative reaction as the largely female fan community. As the Twilight marketing machine has grown and eclipsed spaces such as MTV Movie Awards and Comic Con previously held by franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers and Lord of the Rings, there is increased reaction that these girly movies have “ruined” them. I propose the idea that Twilight’s size and saturation ruins spaces intended for selling traditional franchises needs to be interrogated further. Why does the Twilight juggernaut playing the game give rise to this level of anxiety? In joining the blockbuster boys club, it is not only the fans who are constructed as unruly, but Twilight itself is an unruly female franchise taking over the industry and the box office. Despite the film’s questionable gender politics, is this franchise uncontainable within previous understandings of the male-oriented blockbuster?

What I find so interesting about the Burger King campaign is how it fully embraces the “Twi-Hard” label and Team Edward/Jacob debates. In this video clip, the BK commercial utilizes “real” fans in a playful attempt to exploit the hysteria and further fuel the unruly perception of this franchise.


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