Last month, as "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" got off to a stellar (if not record-breaking) start at the box office, MTV News squashed the widely held assumption that the second part of "Breaking Dawn" would definitely arrive in the summer of 2012. As Summit Entertainment exec Richie Fay told us, the studio was exploring multiple dates in mid- to late 2012, not just possible openings that would fall when school's out of session.
Now, Summit has officially announced that "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" will open November 2012, and with that, another assumption seems to be taking hold among fans and on the Web: After "Eclipse" failed to wildly out-gross "New Moon" at the box office, Summit got spooked about a summer release date and fled to more familiar autumn territory. But based on our conversations with Summit and box-office analysts, that's simply not the case.
First off, it's important to note that despite all this talk about a weaker-than-expected performance for "Eclipse," its $289 million haul will eventually surpass the $297 million that "New Moon" pulled in last fall, according to Box Office Mojo.
When you consider that sequels like "Shrek Forever After" and "Sex and the City 2" underperformed in the crowded summer-movie season, Summit has to be extremely pleased with the box-office business of "Eclipse." So if it's not a fear of summer that persuaded Summit to deliver both "Breaking Dawn" films in the fall, then what was it? A careful examination of the 2012 summer calendar.
"The lesson is that it's all about positioning a film at a time when it will face as little direct competition as possible," explained Phil Contrino, editor of BoxOffice.com. "Summit was wise to stay away from summer 2012, because it's shaping up to be a record-breaking season."
"The Avengers," "Madagascar 3" and "Men in Black 3" are all set to drop that May, followed by "Star Trek 2" in June, and then new installments of "Spider-Man" (which already occupies the Fourth of July slot held this year by "Eclipse"), "Ice Age" and "Batman."
"Why compete with an amazing slate like that if you don't have to?" Contrino added. "I'm sure 'Breaking Dawn, Part 2' would still open very well during a summer that crowded, but its audience would be devoured very quickly."
The point, then, is not that summer is a poor time to release a "Twilight" film but that fall simply presents less competition, which is not to say that there will be no box-office battle in autumn. "Breaking Dawn, Part 1" is set to open against "Happy Feet 2" on November 18, 2011, while the second in the two-part finale will compete with "Monsters Inc. 2" on November 16, 2012. But when you consider the more jam-packed summer season and the fact that an entire year will have passed between "Twilight" flicks — as opposed to the eight months between "New Moon" and "Eclipse" — the fall 2012 release date makes perfect sense.
"There's a mood and spirit to these movies that make them play really well in the fall. They're darker, they're more emotional than standard summer fare, and thematically, fall is a great fit," said John Singh, a box-office analyst for Flixster. "It also allows the audience to build even greater anticipation — rather than seeing the follow-up just a few months later. This gives them a full year to anticipate the final film in a series that has generated hugely positive response from its fanbase."
How do you feel about the two "Breaking Dawn" films opening a year apart? Let us know in the comments!
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