Indie studio counting on "Twilight" success

Thu Nov 20, 2008 1:38am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Much of the conversation about the upcoming vampire romance "Twilight" has centered on the future of the literary-based franchise.

But it also is the future of the independent studio behind the film, Summit Entertainment LLC, that depends in some ways on "Twilight." The much-anticipated film opens Friday.

Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger's company, like many first-year operations, has had mixed returns at the box office this year. Midrange productions like "Never Back Down" ($25 million domestic) and acquisitions like "Penelope" ($10 million domestic) did decently, while "Sex Drive," the R-rated comedy with a sizable marketing budget, significantly underperformed, taking in $8 million in ticket sales.

The overall Summit model, which does have advantages such as a lucrative international sales business, also has limits; it lacks, for example, a pay-TV deal to supplement theatrical revenue.

That increases the box office pressure on "Twilight," a production that's believed to have cost in the $40 million-$50 million range (Summit officially pegs it at $37 million), to earn big not just on opening weekend but into December.

And because Summit's upcoming movies -- including the Dakota Fanning sci-fi tale "Push," the Nicolas Cage thriller "Knowing" and the Toronto pickup "The Hurt Locker" -- have appealing elements but are unlikely franchises, it puts even more eggs in the "Twilight" basket.

"Anytime you have a possibility of a franchise, that's the holy grail," said Friedman, noting that even an opening-weekend figure of $20 million, on the very low end of the expected range, would put the company at the break-even given Summit's revenue streams in areas like home video and foreign sales.

Many in the industry believe that given marketing costs, an opening in the $35 million-$40 million range -- and a domestic theatrical total of at least $75 million -- would be the demarcation for a success; it would have to exceed that to help pick up the company's weaker performers this year.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart attend the premiere of the movie "Twilight" at the Mann Village and Bruin theatres in Westwood, California November 17, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>