London: When Twilight introduced Hollywood to the fanatical fandom of teenage girls, it was a merchandising match made in heaven. So what happened? How exactly did a little film about teenage bloodsuckers turn into a franchise to rival Star Wars, complete with pencil cases, calendars, fan sites tracking the whereabouts of the stars and a halo audience of mums and boys? The answer is this. Twilight is not just a story about a girl who meets a vampire and falls in love. It’s also the story of a film industry that met a demographic and fell equally hopelessly, head-over-heels in love.
It all started innocently enough. The Twilight books sold spectacularly and Hollywood spotted its chance. Catherine Hardwicke, who had form in alternative teen-angst movies thanks to her acclaimed Thirteen, was hired to direct. Twilight was aimed squarely at young female fans and was expected to do OK. (In relationship terms, we’d be talking a few dates before Hollywood met someone else and things fizzled out.)
It turns out that teenage girls, usually overlooked in favour of their brothers and boyfriends, are a film-maker’s dream come true. Rather than passively watching the film, shrugging and moving on with their lives, the female fan base got really involved. And I mean really involved. They did what teenage girls do brilliantly: they obsess. They talk. They don’t just see the films once: they go to see them again and again. And then they buy the DVDs and watch them at home. They take their mums to see it, and their boyfriends. A survey by fandango.com when the first Twilight film was released showed that a whopping 83 per cent of moviegoers planned to see the film again 56 per cent planned to see it with friends and 24 per cent with their mum or daughter.
They don’t just watch the films either. They tweet about them. They blog about them. They get tattoos inspired by them. In short, they market the film to each other and to new audiences and they buy literally anything sporting R-Patz’s powdery cheekbones. This awesome demographic of tweenies, Twilight moms and Twihard emo boys is an audience and a marketing machine in one. It is also, as Andy Fry points out in the Economic Times, a lure for advertisers and product placement of Bond film proportions.
And lo, it turns out that Hollywood is actually a good boyfriend. An attentive and responsive one. It responded to the embrace of this dream demographic with merchandise and a drip-feed of insider information. It also noticed that boys were being dragged along to see the films, so it added more action to keep them happy. Bill Condon was hired in Hardwicke’s place to add some horror. It invited fan bloggers on to the set. Crucially, Hollywood realised that what fans wanted wasn’t necessarily films, it was hot vampires to have crushes on. Accordingly, it went into overdrive.
In fact, Hollywood has been so attentive and responsive to its newfound fans that the internet is now littered with article titles such as “What your small business can learn from Twilight” and “Marketing lessons from the Twilight zone”.
The final Twilight film is now out. But this is not the end of the affair between Hollywood and the Twihards. Now that an audience has been identified, there will be films aplenty. This is no mere affair this is a match made in heaven. There may be filmgoers and critics who remain baffled by the franchise’s popularity. They might ask what they could learn from the Twihards about being an appreciative, enthusiastic audience and getting more of what you want from Hollywood.