Fourth of July: Female power triumphs at the movies

The Fourth of July weekend traditionally launches action films for guys. But this year, 'Twilight: Eclipse' is breaking Hollywood records, mainly because girls and women are seeing it more than once.

Joel Ryan/AP
Actor Xavier Samuel poses with fans as he arrives for the British première of 'Twilight: Eclipse' in London on Thursday. The film is breaking industry records, largely because of its popularity with girls and women.

With the utter box-office dominance of “Twilight: Eclipse,” this Fourth of July weekend promises to be the triumph of female power at the movies.

This Independence day, three-day weekend has traditionally been the berth of the big boy-toy, bam-bam film – just think of last year’s box-office hit, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

But this year, while there are screams a-plenty, they are howls of fan-passion from the wide range of girls and women who are making “Twilight: Eclipse” the powerhouse film of the summer.

IN PICTURES: Fireworks

“This film has already broken industry records,” says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, pointing to the largest number of theaters for a film’s opening weekend (4,468) and the highest gross for a midnight showing (Wednesday night – $30 million). While there has been much hand-wringing in Hollywood over the slump in moviegoing this summer – box-office revenues are down by 17 percent from last year – Mr. Dergarabedian says, “this is the movie that will put this Fourth of July weekend on the map.”

Part of the fair-sex power comes from sheer persistence. Many fans, young and old, are going multiple times.

Seeing 'Twilight: Eclipse' more than once

“I will definitely go again,” says 30 year-old Valerie Alhart, who attended the midnight premier at a theater near Rochester, New York, with her mother-in-law and her mother. “My older sister is a huge fan, too.”

This is not to downplay the significant number of men filling theater seats for the vampire saga, but as Ms. Alhart notes, “I made my husband come with me on Wednesday night, but I don’t think he will go again. I’ll probably go with my sister or friends.”

Fare for guys is much spottier this year, says Sean Phillips, Yahoo! Movies executive producer, who notes that the other expected “tent pole” holiday film is the M. Night Shyamalan’s big-screen version of the popular television series, “The Last Airbender.” Early reviews of the film include such warning words as “soulless,” joyless,” and “muddled mess.”

“Shyamalan has been coasting on the success of his first big hit ‘Sixth Sense’ for a long time,” points out Mr. Phillips. And while he has made films that the kindest critics have called “interesting,” none have come close to fulfilling his early promise, Phillips says.

Smaller films expected to shine

This would seem to leave a large gap for other smaller films to shine over this long weekend, he suggests, options such as the Helen Mirren vehicle “Love Ranch,” about a Nevada bordello. Other niche films, such as “Cyrus” and Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love,” are continuing to draw adult moviegoers.

While analysts such as Dergarabedian suggest this weekend’s lean offerings are “an anomaly,” other longtime movie watchers, such as Seton Hall University film professor Christopher Sharrett, say it is yet another sign of the increasing creative bankruptcy of Hollywood filmmaking.

“They are focusing more and more on the big-screen spectacle with 3D and computer effects,” he says, a trend that is being accelerated as theater owners attempt to give patrons a reason to leave their ever-more sophisticated home theaters.

But, he points out, in the end it may be to no avail, because what people want, no matter how big the budget, is a story worth watching.

“What we’re seeing is the increasing triumph of spectacle over narrative,” he says adding “and in the end, moviegoers will simply turn to other forms of entertainment.”

IN PICTURES: Fireworks


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