Say what you will about Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight books, but they are popular. And the two movies? Huge.
To give you some idea, let's point out that the Grand Rapids area biggest line this week was not at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at Woodland Mall. No, we're talking about the midnight showings for Twilight: New Moon.
Long considered the staple of SF/F and Star Wars and Star Trek geeks, the midnight showings locally were taken over by a largely female crowd of all ages. Only a teen phenomenon? Oh, puh-leese. Pictures on the local news and in the Grand Rapids Press showed many middle-aged women who were not all mothers chaperoning their teens or pre-teens.
When Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened on 19 May 1999, Studio 28 had a midnight showing in Theatre 1, then had it running in 3 other theatres for the first 24 hours. Fast forward to 2009 and while Studio 28 is gone, the same chain's Celebration North mulitiplex opened New Moon in all 17 non-IMAX theatres at midnight -- over 3500 seats -- and sold out. Systemwide, they sold something like 14,200 midnight tickets, exceeded only by one of the Harry Potter's at 14,600 (and Celebration North opened it in 14 theatres at midnight).
While some of this is marketing and choosing to open extra theatres and offer more seats for the midnight showings, one needs to point out another set of interesting factoids about West Michigan: (1) this was on a school night and (2) with (most?) West Michigan schools on trimesters, final exams start like on Friday. And still the teens contributed to the surge.
The Inevitable Complaints
Last Sunday, I showed up for part of a 10am panel at WindyCon 36 on "Rowling and Meyer" and what young readers are reading. J.K. Rowling's writing poor and predictable? Stephenie Meyer can't write either and her vampires aren't (sniff) canonical? Does not seem to be hurting the sales, folks. Even the NPR news quiz show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on Saturday tried to argue that all these Twilight fans are going to be unprepared to go up against real vampires. (grin)
Look, I haven't read any of the Twilight novels or seen the movies. And I know some people who have and their heads didn't explode -- some of them really like them. But they are successful and I won't begrudge either writer, stars or studio their success. Did I mention that Mister Werewolf in New Moon is a local boy from Michigan? (grin) While not all these readers and moviegoers are going to become lifelong SF/F fans of all genres, there will be some who go on to read more books and see more movies.
A rising tide raises all boats. Wrestling a tsunami is a little harder. (grin)