Moms Get Starring Role in Marketing 'Twilight' Movie
LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- With 17 million copies of Stephenie Meyer's young-adult best-seller "Twilight" sold worldwide, and having been translated into 20 languages, you might wonder why a forthcoming film adaptation would require any marketing at all.
"Twilight" is being made by Summit Entertainment, a new indie film studio that burst onto the Hollywood scene even more recently than Ms. Meyer did. In April 2007, Paramount Pictures' former chief operating officer and marketing capo, Rob Friedman, secured $1 billion in Wall Street financing from Merrill Lynch for the then little-known foreign sales company. Overnight, Summit morphed into a new, stand-alone film studio on par with Lionsgate.
But Summit is still no Paramount, and its leaner size means it can't simply buy itself an opening weekend for "Twilight" with the usual avalanche of TV spots, billboards and product integration deals the way bigger Hollywood rivals might for, say, "Harry Potter" or "Lemony Snicket."
Instead, Summit is counting on an unexpected group to help evangelize the film beyond its pubescent base: moms.
"The challenge is to spread it beyond the core audience [of teen girls]," said Nancy Kirkpatrick, head of worldwide marketing at Summit, and like Mr. Friedman, a former Paramount Pictures marketing veteran.
That might seem a bit daunting, because while sex sells, "Twilight" contains no king-sized coffins used for amorous activities.
"While it is about vampires, the book is very chaste. [Ms. Meyer] takes her Mormon faith very seriously," Ms. Kirkpatrick said.
For example, Ms. Meyer does allow her main characters, a regular mortal teen named Bella and her vampire love interest, Edward, to kiss feverishly, but not to have sex before marriage. The lack of any hot girl-on-bat action has actually expanded its marketability, with many moms reading the books as a way to bond with their daughters. Some have even used "Twilight" to have that first bats-and-the-bees conversation safely on their own terms, instead of Hollywood's.
One such mommy evangelist is Kirsten Starkweather, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mom in the Fresno, Calif., suburb of Clovis. Ms. Starkweather, who has an 8-year-old daughter, went from being a simple "Twilight" fan last year to becoming one of the administrators of the TwilightMoms blog.
Said Ms. Starkweather, "I immediately felt like I had found a home on the internet."
She's hardly alone: A fellow stay-at-home mom in Utah named Lisa Hansen began an unwieldy MySpace page with just 86 members last December, but it's grown into its own site with a whopping 16,000 registered users this week.
Summit's smaller size means that the studio has been able to be more flexible and open with the thousands of devoted fans like Ms. Starkweather.
Coming out of the woodwork
When filming began in Portland, Ore., last spring, the location was frequently ringed by hundreds of "Twilight" fans who had traveled from several states away to see the shoot. Summit arranged to have TwilightMoms.com send five bloggers to spend several days on the film's set.
"What we've learned is to involve the fans and make them feel part of it," Ms. Kirkpatrick said.
All that goodwill has other benefits. The moms also protect the franchise for the studio against bad buzz online.
"We consider ourselves a Stephenie Meyer fan site," Ms. Starkweather said. "It doesn't all have to be sunshine and roses, but we don't allow bashing of any kind. We have 'mommy rules' about what language is appropriate, and we watch very closely for people who are being mean or cruel," she said, adding that if anyone is, "They're given a time-out."