Some arrived as early as 7 p.m., taking their seats at the Rave Motion Pictures at Buckland Hill theater, a full five hours before the screening of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, the penultimate chapter in the movie version of the vampire saga. The midnight showing drew throngs of fans of the films based on the incredibly popular series of novels created by Stephenie Meyer.
To call Twilight a phenomenon would be an understatement. Both in print and on the silver screen, the supernatural romantic tale of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen inspires a devotion in its legion of fans, and a seemingly equally passionate mass of detractors. But the haters were at their keyboards at 1 minute past midnight this morning, pontificating on message boards about the sanctity of vampires and how they clearly don't sparkle.
But the Twilight lovers gathered by the hundreds perhaps thousands in Manchester, and millions nationwide to indulge in the fantasy of vampires, werewolves, and forbidden love.
The cineplex for its part was ready for the event, with all 18 screens ready to be called into service if necessary to accommodate the demand. Manager Tom Mathley said the movie and the franchise, “was doing what we thought it would. It's really taking off.”
The first Twilight film opened to a $70 million dollar weekend, a gaudy haul considering the preponderance of the audience is girls and women. By this reporter's unofficial tally, the ratio was probably 35-50 to 1 of females to males in the audience.
Most of the spectators interviewed reported having read the Meyer novels, including two out of three of the Nadeau sisters.
“I've always been a vampire, werewolf fan and it has a teenage love story, when I first started reading it that was it for me, but the more I was reading, I fell in love with the characters. So I am really in love with the books, the movies are a fun and exciting side part,” said Julia Nadeau.
The vampire mythology was a draw for one of the few male fans of the series. Scott Kennedy of Vernon said that he was a fan of all vampire stuff, including television series Vampire Diaries and True Blood. He also noted he loved the Anne Rice series of vampire novels when he was a kid. But mostly, this is a series that appeals to girls. Most men in the theater were along for the ride with their girlfriends, or afraid to admit their guilty pleasure.
Students from Eastern Connecticut State University Vanessa Miles, and Kelsey Guggenheim made the trek from Willimantic to Manchester because they didn't want the local theater to be sold out. They admitted to loving the books and the movies, Miles saying she'd seen Twilight forty times, probably not an exaggeration. Freely admitting they were not well written books, nor that the movies were particularly great, both girls having a background in theater and English. But the appeal for them is huge.
“I don't think it's the fact that he's a vampire and she's a human, it's just he's always there for her. She can depend on him,” said Vanella Miles of Torrington.
“We're just sappy girls,” chimed in Kelsey, in jest, “I will find my Edward some day.”
Miles said she was writing a paper in her psychology class using Bella Swan as a test subject, attempting to prove she suffers from separation anxiety, dependency disorder, and borderline disorder. Certainly no blind hero worship for the female lead.
But for Edward Cullen, the dreamy vampire beau, it seemed every heart in the theater skipped a beat. In his first appearance at the opening of the film, a fan cried out a longing, “oh my God!” at his stunning good looks, prompting laughter in the packed theater.
The movie review aggregating website RottenTomatoes.com currently scores the film a 29% based on the critics reviews. The audience rating stands at 92%. Stephen King famously savaged the Twilight series for its poor writing and shallow story, yet the books have sold multiple million copies. The appeal of the series clearly transcends the opinions of the professionals. And upon viewing the smiles on the faces of the masses exiting the theater upon the movie's completion, the professionals are missing an important part of the equation.
This latest installment of the Twilight series comes a full year and a half after the previous installment called Eclypse released in June of 2010. The second part of Breaking Dawn will is scheduled for November of 2012.
Miles said it was a long time to wait, but well worth it, “I don't think I am going to be this excited on Christmas Eve,” she said, “Christmas comes once a year – this is once in a lifetime!”
Twilight: Breaking Dawn is now playing. Probably in every theater you can think of. You can check your local listings on Fandango.com.