Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart And The Economics Of Scandal
After a summer of ugly headlines and angry, online reaction to Kristen Stewart’s ill-fated tryst with Snow White and The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, gloomy predictions about a “tainted” The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 now appear distinctly premature.
Reasons for this are undoubtedly due to multiple media outlets reporting that Stewart and Robert Pattinson have now reconciled.
The palpable optimism that greeted Summit’s recently announced global press tour is even more remarkable when one considers how bleak things looked just two months ago.
And it’s not just perceptions that are on the up, box office tracking for the series’ final installment is similarly buoyant.
Deadlinereports that the first day of advance ticket sales for Part 2 substantially outpaced pre-sales for Part 1. First day advance tickets for Part 1 crunched in at $ 626K.
In comparison, Part 2’s racked up $ 1.17 million. As far as first days go, that’s a hike of 87%.
Over a quarter of the tickets sold on Monday were for the November 15 marathon screenings which take place one day before opening weekend. Deadline put Breaking Dawn — Part 2 ‘s box office prospects into even clearer perspective, stating:
“Summit’s first day total for Part 2 is already running ahead of the three-day cume for Part 1.”
In addition, online ticket vendor Fandango reportsBreaking Dawn — Part 2 made up a whopping 51 % of their sales for the week, with big hitters like Taken 2 and Looper coming in considerably below that.
“If advance sales continue at this rate, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 could very well be on its way to becoming the highest grossing film in the franchise.”
But while there was never any doubt that Part 2’s box office will eventually be huge — it is the conclusion of a series fans are invested in after all — it’s also clear that the off-screen scandal story has heightened media and even non-fan interest in the saga’s denouement.
Who would have thought that turbulence in the personal lives of the franchise’s lead actors would have such a positive effect? Quite a few actually. In July, Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst at Hollywood.com, was quoted saying:
“I don’t think that there is a single teenage girl who would not go see [Breaking Dawn] because of this … There’s a curiosity factor now to see them on screen together and know what’s transpired … Will it hurt the box office? I don’t think so.”
Exampling the furore that accompanied Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s coupling in 2004, Dergarabedian noted Mr and Mrs Smith went on to do great box office despite Pitt’s eventual divorce from the perennially popular Jennifer Aniston.
“That’s the best example of where some indiscretion in the private life helped the box office. Because [audiences] wanted to see what the heat was between those two. It’s [Breaking Dawn — Part 2’s ]in that same wheelhouse. It draws on that same curiosity and interest.”
Of course that works both ways. While Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will certainly benefit from the very public playing out of universally relatable themes: betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation, there are some transgressions movie audiences won’t forgive.
Mel Gibson’s once robust career never recovered from the exposure of his rage/misogyny/racism issues. Likewise, the climb back for Lindsay Lohan, Winona Ryder, and latterly John Travolta and Tom Cruise (as yet, untested), has been a struggle.
In contrast, Robert Downey Jr.’s well documented journey back from addiction to mass adulation bucked that trend, largely because of his frankness in talking about his problems — not to mention wit. To date, the Iron Man franchise has grossed over $ 1 billion, while Marvel’s The Avengers record-breaking haul speaks for itself.
Yes, the economics of scandal is a tricky beast. Its bite, unpredictable. But equally, the impact of intense media on a public-dependent entity such as a movie can also significantly enhance its appeal. Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman agrees:
“To the extent that Kristen and Robert, Together Forever are the red-carpet shadow version of Bella and Edward, what happens in their relationship most assuredly impacts the excitement that people feel about seeing a new Twilight movie.”
“I would argue, the excitement will only be heightened. This fall, as the publicity campaign for [Part 2] goes into hyper-manic world-nuking overdrive, there will be interviews (an orgy of them) with Stewart and Pattinson, and what everyone will want to know is: Are you two together?”
Following Stewart’s “we’re totally fine” remarks, Lainey Gossip’s scoop then re-confirmation and — crucially — the non-denial of the media’s ‘they’re back together’ narrative by either Pattinson or Stewart’s reps, the couple’s reunion arrives in undeniably, timely fashion before last hurrah mania sets in.
But while fictitious media invented sources continue to gorge on the couple’s private life, whether Pattinson and Stewart have reunited for the sake of expedience or love, perhaps — for now — it doesn’t actually matter.
The end of a pop culture phenomenon and a story that’s entranced millions approaches, and it’s likely Pattinson, Stewart — and Summit — want that ending to be a positive one. Something that gives value to what was, is, and will remain an uncommon moment in time.
That an overly scrutinized scandal will in all likelihood drive Breaking Dawn: Part 2 to record breaking box office, doesn’t negate the fact that — sometimes — a happy ending can trump cynicism.