New 'Breaking Dawn' another smash for Lion's Gate

The big box office weekend for the final installment in the series lines the studio's pockets and makes the saga an elite movie franchise.

By Jason Notte Nov 20, 2012 1:35AM

Image: Hollywood -Comstock, SuperStockMock the shiny vampires and carpet-chested werewolves, throw shade at the chaste teen romance and chastise Kristen Stewart for her public indiscretions with Rupert Sanders if you must. Just don't doubt the money-printing power of the "Twilight" series.

The titular young adult film series' fifth and final installment, "Breaking Dawn, Part 2," just grossed more than $141 million in the U.S. and more than $340 million worldwide over the weekend. Altogether, the series has brought in more than $1.2 billion at box offices across America and nearly $3 billion around the globe since first heating fans into a vestal K-Stew-and-R-Patz-fueled frenzy back in 2008.

Its string of nine-figure Novembers transformed Summit Entertainment from an Oscar-laden art house also-ran to a pop culture commodity Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) gleefully acquired for $412 million in January. It also changed "Twilight" from the curious obsession of bookish teens and hard-up older readers to a big-screen touchstone that, without adjusting for inflation, has brought in more money than the Time Warner's (TWX) Lord Of The Rings series ($1.06 billion), Disney's (DIS) Toy Story series ($883 million), and Viacom's (VIA.B) Paramount-distributed Indiana Jones saga ($906 million) and its 11 Star Trek films ($1.01 billion), according to BoxOfficeMojo.

This weekend, it can overtake the four Pirates of the Caribbean films and potentially surpass the four Spider-Man films to become the fifth most-popular U.S. film franchise of all time (sixth if you're sitting the in the comics shop counting Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America films as part of The Avengers series). For devoted, fanfic-scrawling followers who kept hearing how Twilight's supposedly limited appeal would never put it close to the Harry Potter, Star Wars, Batman and James Bond franchises ahead of it, the performance of this largely sexless bloodsucking love story from the Pacific Northwest is a testament to the story they love and the tabloid-wrapped cult of personality they've built around it.

It's also a little misleading. Break down that box-office take by the average gross per film and Twilight ($242.5 million per film) suddenly trails not only the Jurassic Park ($255 million), Lord of the Rings ($265.2 million), and Transformers ($269.9 million) films, but the R-rated, bromantic The Hangover films ($265.9 million) as well.

Also, as we said, those numbers aren't adjusted for inflation. When that happens, the Twilight franchise's most popular installment -- 2009's "New Moon" -- drops to the 170th most popular film of all time. Historically speaking, it's a bit more popular than 1988's cartoon blockbuster "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" but caught slightly less of the public's imagination than another sequel: 1981's "Superman II."

Twilight's still a powerhouse and, in the words of the Hollywood Reporter, "proves females can fuel an event franchise." But when you compare the $400 million it added to Summit's value to the $4 billion the Star Wars films got Disney to pay for Lucasfilm just a few weeks ago, Twilight is still not as big as its buzz.

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