Examining The Business Of 'New Moon'

New Moon, the second movie in the popular Twilight" series, brought in more than $140-million in ticket sales in North America, starting with midnight screenings on Friday. That's the third biggest opening on record. Ben Fritz, an entertainment business reporter for The Los Angeles Times, says the audience for the movie was overwhelmingly female.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The big draw at the box office this weekend belonged to a pallid vampire and the teenage girl who adores him.

(Soundbite of film, "New Moon")

Mr. ROBERT PATTINSON (Actor): (As Edward Cullen) You just don't belong in my world, Bella.

Ms. KRISTEN STEWART (Actor): (As Bella Swan) I belong with you.

Mr. PATTINSON: (As Edward Cullen) This is the last time you'll ever see me. Please just promise me you won't do anything reckless.

BLOCK: "New Moon," the second movie in the insanely popular "Twilight" series, brought in more than $140 million in ticket sales in North America, starting with midnight screenings on Friday. That's the third biggest opening on record after "The Dark Knight" and "Spiderman 3." And if you're an executive at Paramount Studios, you are gnashing your teeth right now because this was the movie that you let get away.

Ben Fritz covers the entertainment business for The Los Angeles Times. He joins us now. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. BEN FRITZ (Entertainment Business Reporter, The Los Angeles Times): Sure thing.

BLOCK: Let's talk about the demographic here. No shock that this - audiences for "New Moon" are overwhelmingly female, 80 percent, right?

Mr. FRITZ: Yes. Eighty percent female and mostly young, about 50/50 split over/under 21, but most of the ones over 21 were in their 20s and 30s, as you can guess.

BLOCK: Or maybe the parents accompanying the ones�

Mr. FRITZ: Or the parents, that's right. The moms who were dragged along with their little daughters, I think, yes.

BLOCK: And how has the marketing for this movie been so successful, do you think?

Mr. FRITZ: Well, they've really let the fans kind of own it. You know, they've managed to avoid the feeling that they're shoving it down people's throats and feel like something that Hollywood is controlling and overdoing, which is why they had such huge lines on Friday night.

BLOCK: It's interesting, too, if you think about the other two movies that we just mentioned, "The Dark Knight" and "Spiderman 3," those were hugely expensive movies to make. So even though they did great at the box office, they were having to recoup a lot of money that went in on the front end. "New Moon" still cost $50 million, but it took in nearly three times that on the very first weekend.

Mr. FRITZ: Right. Well, in Hollywood, $50 million is like chump change these days, you know.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. FRITZ: So that's right. They produced it at a cost for a movie that would only appeal to a small audience of, you know, of young women, but there were so many people who came out as a result. This is going to be hugely profitable. It'll be way more profitable than "Dark Knight" or "Spiderman 3" because they spent so much less to make it.

BLOCK: Let's talk about the business end of this from the studio perspective. The films, of course, based on books by Stephenie Meyer. Paramount, MTV Films had the rights to the first movie, "Twilight," for two years, put it in turnaround and then this little studio, Summit Entertainment, snapped it up and here they are with this amazing success.

Mr. FRITZ: Yes, this is one of those classic Hollywood stories where people don't know what they have until it's too late. Paramount bought it when the books weren't even out yet, but they just couldn't put together a take that they liked. And they just didn't know that it would have so much box office potential. And then when Summit got hold of it, they thought, hey, this is a good story. It was pitched to them as Romeo and Juliet set in a vampire world, and they saw some potential there. But, again, because it appealed - it seemed such a narrow demographic, nobody thought it would be such a huge movie.

BLOCK: Has this studio, Summit Entertainment, had any other hits like this?

Mr. FRITZ: Summit's had a couple of other modest hits, but nothing remotely on this scale. It's only a three-year-old company. And, you know, this is one of those cases where it's a combination of foresight and a lot of luck. And now, Summit is in this position where they're suddenly a hugely valuable and successful company based on this one franchise that's one of the biggest in Hollywood.

BLOCK: Do you think one of the object lessons here is that studios have been really underestimating the power of this sector of the audience?

Mr. FRITZ: Yeah. I think people in Hollywood have been thinking genre films, you know, science fiction, fantasy, superhero are mainly for boys, and that's why you've seen such a rush for movies in this genre with the success of "Iron Man," "The Dark Knight," so on. Usually, it's guys who drive at least the opening box office, but this goes to prove you can do genre for women and girls just as successfully. And I think you're going to see more people thinking about that going forward.

BLOCK: Well, there is this huge opening weekend for "New Moon." What happens now, do you think? Can they keep these numbers up?

Mr. FRITZ: "New Moon" had the third-biggest domestic opening of all time, but it almost certainly won't end up being the third-biggest domestic movie. There was so much pent-up interest. The fans are so intense that so many people came opening weekend. And you'll see some people coming back to see it again and some people who didn't want to be in the big crowds, but it doesn't seem to have as much interest amongst guys.

And you look at the polling, and actually, while simultaneously people love it, there's also a very high contingent of definitely not interested. So you're going to see this fall off fairly quickly at the box office. So it'll end up being a big hit, but not one of the biggest ever when all is said and done.

BLOCK: But then the third installment is coming out not very long from now.

Mr. FRITZ: Right. It's not even one year. It's next summer. And with this kind of performance this weekend, you can imagine the expectations. It's going to be through the roof.

BLOCK: Well, Ben Fritz, thanks for talking with us.

Mr. FRITZ: Sure thing, thank you.

BLOCK: Ben Fritz covers the entertainment business for The Los Angeles Times.

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