Bright Side

How “Twilight” Turned From a B-Movie for Teen Girls Into One of the Most Successful Hollywood Projects

Despite wide criticism from viewers and a small budget, the Twilight franchise managed to become one of the coolest Hollywood projects. It was so great that filmmakers continue trying to repeat the so-called “Twilight effect,” but very few of them have managed to do it.

Bright Side editorial figured out the reasons for the success of this ordinary-at-first-glance teen movie and found out how this vampire saga affected cinematography in general.

Thanks to the vampire saga, we got a series of movies about women and made especially for women.

The classical rule of cinematography says that girls are ready to watch movies for men, while men won’t watch girls’ movies. That’s why movies we see are often focused on men, while women in these films play the role of the main prize that the protagonist gets after having overcome a certain challenge. At the time of the release of the vampire saga in Hollywood, filmmakers tacitly believed that making a movie for women was a direct way to fail.

Of course, there were movies for women before Twilight too, and some of them brought enormous profits to their creators. Titanic, Charlie’s Angels, and Sex and the City are on this list. However, the commercial success of these projects was perceived as something random, not something that happens with any sense of regularity. Failed and unsuccessful movies like Elektra and Catwoman were cited as arguments.

Twilight is considered to be the first franchise that managed to prove that a movie made for women can be a successful commercial project. It is this saga (not any other film of the same generation) that is believed to have had a decisive impact on gender equality in the film industry.

However, in essence, this movie has the same storyline as Cinderella: Bella, a poor, clumsy, and not very attractive girl, falls in love with a handsome, rich young man; by the end of the narration she transforms and becomes almost inhumanly attractive. What’s more, the opposite images of men in this saga (cold Edward and hot Jacob) became almost the base of the movie’s success. It guaranteed that any woman would like the movie, because out of 2 very different protagonist men, she will be able to choose the one who she personally likes.

Since the release of the first part of the saga, the film industry kept trying to get the “twilight effect” by placing a female character in the middle of the plot. Franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent became the most successful attempts.

Thanks to Twilight, cinematography got a lot of hyper-attractive vampire women.

The success of movies about Bella Swan caused the appearance of other vampire series. First of all, there were The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. They also focused on a female audience but endowed their main female characters with a strong feminine principle. Men in these series perceive women as prey.

Earlier, it was customary to depict movie vampires as repulsive creatures. The famed horror writer Stephen King once described them as “stone killers” and the archetypical “bad boys and girls.” Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood have completely changed this approach.

As surprising as it might sound, Twilight managed to stay away from being excessively explicit. The movie, on the contrary, partially promotes the preservation of innocence before marriage (remember Edward, who refused to get close with Bella before she married him). Even Bella’s surname hints at purity. The emphasis on the feminine part appeared only after Bella became a vampire.

If not for Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey would not exist.

The fans of Fifty Shades of Grey know that the novel that the movie is based on was initially created as a fanfiction to Twilight, where Anastasia is Bella Swan and Edward Cullen is Christian. The author of the fanfiction wanted to make the relationship between the original characters more body-oriented. But the text ended up becoming an independent love story and brought its author a lot of money and a lot of fame.

Despite the obvious difference between movies and books, Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight have some things in common:

  • The main female characters are clumsy and unattractive;
  • In both movies, they are ready to start dangerous relationships with dangerous men;
  • They are abused by their partners;
  • Both Edward and Christian confess that they don’t understand their beloved women, but this misunderstanding only strengthens their desire to be with them;
  • Both Bella and Anastasia get into situations where they require a man’s protection;
  • Both Edward and Christian shun their loved ones but return because they can’t imagine their life without these women.

The fact that the first parts of both love stories were shot by women became a surprising coincidence: Catherine Hardwicke worked on Twilight in 2008, while Fifty Shades of Grey was created by Sam Taylor-Johnson in 2015. Therefore, the feminine vision was not limited by the novels themselves, but it was also there on the set. The second parts of both movies were made by men.

Twilight is called one of Hollywood’s most successful multi-part projects.

Regarding the commercial success of Twilight — not only did this movie manage to earn a lot of money, but the franchise became one of Hollywood’s all-time most successful projects. Its box office brought in more than $1 billion, though its budget was much much lower:

  • The first movie was made for $37 million and the box office brought in over $408 million;
  • $50 million was spent on the second part and the box office brought in over $711 million;
  • The third part was a bit more expensive — $68 million and helped its creators earn $698 million;
  • $230 million was spent on both movies of the fourth part and the profit was $1.541 billion.

This was a kind of revolution in the film industry and many directors are still trying to repeat the box office success of the saga. Of course, there are more successful franchises like the movies about Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as The Lord of the Rings. But they were much more expensive to produce. The first parts of all of these movies cost no less than $100 million. These numbers grew much bigger by the final parts. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was on the verge of losing more money than it had invested — with a budget of $300 million, the movie only earned $309 million in the domestic market. However, it managed to redeem itself at the worldwide box office — where its gross was over $960 million.

What’s more surprising, this vampire saga became a hit despite the little-known cast and almost no special effects. So what’s that secret ingredient that the creators added to this movie? Of course, it’s the love story, which is more teenager-ish than adult-ish. As a rule, Hollywood doesn’t perceive teenage girls as a target audience that they can make good money on and Twilight showed that it makes sense to start to consider this.

Have you watched this vampire saga? Do you agree that it deserves the title of one of the most successful projects of modern cinematography?