Sunday Discussion: Can Twilight Put Summit Entertainment on the Map?
by Alex Billington
November 16, 2008
I know what you're thinking - I finally caught Twilight fever. I haven't, though, in fact, I'm sure I never will, I still hate Twilight. But I have been thinking about it, because with all the press and publicity it's getting, there's no way you can't think about it. And here's the thing about Twilight - it is set to break some big records. The biggest November opening so far was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a $103 million opening weekend. As of early last week (the most recent stats I could find), Twilight had already sold out at least 100 shows. At that rate, it's bound to sell out every midnight show by mid-week. All of this is just the typical buzz we usually hear - but it means a lot more when it's for an independent studio.
Twilight is being distributed (in the US) by Summit Entertainment. Who are they? Well, their first official release was a horror flick called P2 from last year. While they've been around for a while as a sales rep and production company, they've only started distributing films on their own for barely a year. They're an independent studio, as we might call them, and have only put out a few other small films like Fly Me to the Moon and Never Back Down. So again, why is Twilight so important to this studio? Well, if it's poised to potentially make $70 million on opening weekend (which is my own current prediction) and even more in its domestic run, it could really put Summit Entertainment on the map in Hollywood - and allow them to shake things up.
As always, I tend to write controversial articles about purely speculative ideas. I don't claim to know the inner workings of the business side of Hollywood, but I know that no other independent studio has made this much money in a long time. Even Lionsgate is no longer a true independent studio, considering they were first established in 1997 and put out big hitters nowadays anyway. In a town where few independent studios release films that make over $100 million, it's quite refreshing to see someone like Summit get the opportunity to join the ranks of the "big boys." Other smaller studios like The Weinstein Company are on their way out (at least that's what I believe), so this is Summit's big chance to step up.
One might say the smartest decision Summit ever made was give the greenlight to Twilight. It's not just that it has the potential to set records and make Hollywood rethink romantic teenage vampire stories, but it has the potential to bring a young new studio into the spotlight. I'm not saying that Hollywood needs to be shaken up, but I'm interested to see what Summit might be able to do once they have a boat load of cash in their bank account. They seem very supportive of projects that otherwise would have never gotten off the ground. And maybe their executives have some new ideas in terms of marketing or distribution. When Twilight takes off next weekend, it will give them that opportunity to put these ideas to use.
I tried getting in touch with Summit to talk with their two executives - Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger. But I never heard back and was never able to talk with them. Maybe I am jumping the gun on this whole idea. Or maybe I just like thinking that Summit could hit it big with Twilight. I really hope they do because I'd like to see a young new studio give some of the older ones a run for their money. It might force them to stop being so lazy with their releases and actually start working on better films. I love the idea of progression and allowing the "young" to influence the "old" - and in business these days, that rarely happens. So to see this anomaly known as Twilight put Summit on the map makes me quite happy.
Only time will tell if anything actually does happen. Twilight will hit theaters next weekend and I'm certain most shows will sell out - it just has that kind of buzz at the moment. It's going to make lots and lots of money, there's no question about that. The only questions that remain are: What will this do for Summit Entertainment? Will Hollywood start up more risky projects like Twilight in the future? Will this change the way anything works in Hollywood or be just another big hit and nothing more? I always predict that big hits will have some sort of powerful impact on Hollywood - and this time I think this one will. Although I'm not a fan of Twilight myself, I can at least recognize the beast that it has currently become.