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US actor Taylor Lautner (left), US actress Kristen Stewart and British actor Robert Pattinson at the Spanish premiere of the film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2 in the Kinepolis Cinema, Madrid, on Thursday. Gabriel Pecot / AP
As vampires Bella and Edward take their last bites of the big screen, Hollywood studios are on the hunt for the next Twilight, a movie that plays on teenage angst and, more importantly, lights up the movie box office.
The first four Twilight movies earned $2.5 billion at theaters worldwide, propelled by passionate fans of a book series about a vampire-and-werewolf teen love triangle. Box office watchers project Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will haul in $150 million at US and Canadian theaters this weekend, one of the year's biggest film debuts.
Eager to replicate that performance, studios executives have been trolling through young adult novels with the dream of uncovering the next big blockbuster franchise, paying as much as $1 million to secure the film rights to the hottest books.
At least four films based on books for teenagers will reach theaters next year, with young love forced to overcome alien parasites, evil zombies and other supernatural bad guys.
Executives hope they can uncover a story that excites tech-savvy teens, who supercharged the buzz mill for The Hunger Games and other hits by spreading the word to friends through social media posts.
"It's a very enthusiastic and deep passion that young people feel for a book they love," said Nina Jacobson, executive producer of The Hunger Games, which spawned a blockbuster film franchise with $687 million in worldwide ticket sales this spring.
"When they love something, they share it," Jacobson said.
The four-year Twilight movie saga lifted tiny studio Summit Entertainment into Hollywood's big leagues and paved the way for its $412 million acquisition in January by Lions Gate Entertainment, the studio behind The Hunger Games.
The coming young adult films incorporate paranormal themes like those in the Twilight movies or dark dystopian futures and battles for survival reminiscent of The Hunger Games, and do it through the drama of young love.
Summit is aiming to get Twilight fans buzzing about next February's zombie romance Warm Bodies with a trailer before Breaking Dawn - Part 2. Warm Bodies star Teresa Palmer chatted about the movie - a love story between a zombie and human - while she strolled the red carpet at a Breaking Dawn premiere.
A couple of weeks after Warm Bodies, Warner Brothers will trot out fantasy movie Beautiful Creatures, about a teen girl with magical powers and a boy who is drawn to her, with a debut on Valentine's Day.
The movie "shares as much in common with Twilight as it does with Harry Potter", said Andrew Kosove, co-president of production studio Alcon Entertainment, referring to the series that grossed $7.7 billion in worldwide ticket sales and woke up Hollywood to the power of adaptations of books for children and young adults.
In March, Open Road Films releases The Host, a science fiction tale about alien parasites from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Sony Corp's The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, about a teen girl who tries to protect the world from demons, comes out in August. Summit's drama Ender's Game, the story of a boy who leads the charge against an alien invasion, is scheduled for November 2013.
They will battle the latest installments of existing young adult franchises such as the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, which comes out in November 2013.
The fever for young adult movies is so hot among Hollywood executives that studios snap up the rights to some books before they hit store shelves to keep them out of the hands of competitors. Screen Gems, a unit of Sony, announced on Oct 9 it had bought rights to Black City a month before the book went on sale.
(China Daily 11/17/2012 page6)