I’ve been thinking about the Twilight series quite a bit lately. No, I haven’t developed a thing for vampires or Kristen Stewart, although my girlfriend’s daughter, Yasmine, is a huge fan of the series (and I happen to think that Stewart is a talented young actress). Instead, I think it’s a fascinating example of how internet buzz can develop around a transmedia franchise such as the Twilight books and movies and what it might mean for film fandom. Anne Petersen, gossip scholar extraordinaire, has a witty, thoughtful post about this phenomenon, noting that her web traffic spikes considerably whenever she mentions the movies or pretty much anyone connected to them (and, no, this isn’t *really* a shameless plea for traffic). More significant, however, is that Petersen also points out that gossip sites that are dependent upon building high volumes of traffic to build advertising revenue might be tempted to drop a few Kristen Stewart-Robert Pattinson rumors just to keep the fan base clicking in.
I mention these details because I’ve been reading John Hartley’s Television Truths, a book that devotes significant attention to the speed of publication (or transmission) associated with various media. The sections I’ve read focus less on the web or bogosphere than older media, but I think his arguments are perfectly suited to describing the accelerated pace by which information is produced in the film blogosphere. I’m not ready to argue that this process–in which gossip and entertainment bloggers rush to satisfy the voracious interest in the Twilight films–is harmful. After all, I use Twitter, the microblogging tool known for short, quick posts. Nor am I a purist about posting ads on blogs. But I think it does speak to one of the ways in which the “industry” of blogging–the modes of producing a profit–begin to shape how film gets covered and even risks drawing attention from lesser-known films. As Annie’s colleague, Nick, observes: “there can never be enough information on a star; therefore, more information is always needed.”
That being said, I think we lose a lot if we don’t reflect carefully on the specific attractions Twilight and its sequels offer its (predominantly, though not exclusively, young and female) audience. With that in mind, I’m intrigued by a couple of stats mentioned by Anne Thompson, who notes that New Moon ticket pre-sales are significantly outpacing Twilight. On one level this shouldn’t be surprising: more audiences have had a chance to discover (or become devoted to) the series through the original film, the DVD, the books, and online fan cultures. More intriguing is Thompson’s discussion of the high level of activity on Flixster surrounding New Moon, which Thompson reports is seeing more discussion than the biggest grossing film of 2009, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I’m not sure that this metric can be used to predict that New Moon will surpass Transformers‘ numbers, but it does show that the fan base for it is probably quite a bit deeper and may (I’d imagine) attract more repeat viewings.
I don’t really have a grand conclusion here, but it’s interesting to see how social media tools such as Flixster and blogs have become an important part of the reception, promotion, and discussion of New Moon and other Twilight films.