Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap Twilight fans put 'Eclipse' hooplah to a good cause

Summit Entertainment
Summit Entertainment's 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' opens June 30 (many theaters hold midnight screeners June 29) and plenty of Kitsap fans are expected to be there.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Kitsap Regional Library

Put a finger on a map at Forks, the famed setting of author Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and a thumb on Seattle, where a bloodthirsty band of vampires stages its uprising in “Eclipse,” the third book in the series, then pull your finger and thumb together.

Somewhere in between, your digits will meet at the Kitsap Peninsula, home to two midnight opening benefits of the movie version of “Eclipse,” which officially comes to theaters June 30.

It's also home to plenty of fans planning to attend.

Just ask Peter Raffa, executive director of the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation, which is hosting the events. The foundation held similar midnight openings of the first film in the series in 2008, and of last year’s release of the second movie in the film franchise, based on the second book in the saga, “New Moon.” Like this year, proceeds went to the Kitsap Regional Library.

Then, adult women wearing vampire glitter, electrified teen girls and pale-faced diehards in costume came to Kitsap theaters to celebrate their favorite love triangle.

“Every time Jacob took his shirt off they would scream at the top of their lungs,” Raffa said. “And he took his shirt off a lot, because my ears are just starting to recover.”

The next chest-baring film in the series, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” premieres Tuesday night at midnight, June 29. The foundation will hold events at the Bainbridge Cinemas and the Olympic Theater in Bremerton. Tickets are $25.

The Twilight fundraising openers at local theaters are a unique way for an atypical audience to show its support of the library, said Jeff Brody, Kitsap Regional Library Community Relations Director. Not the usual dinner-and-auction crowd, teens and young adults attending these films are more difficult to target when raising funds, and the “Eclipse” opening provides a rare opportunity.

“If it can touch this group of people and they’re willing to support the foundation through ticket sales to see this movie, it’s just another way of raising awareness for the foundation,” Brody said.

The movie openings are two of many more tailored, intimate events, such as the Dinner with an Author series, that the Foundation is holding to raise library contributions.

Fans have other options, as regular, less expensive midnight screenings are held at most of Kitsap’s movie houses. But last year, the Bainbridge and Bremerton “New Moon” fundraisers earned more than $5,000 for the library. More than 270 people attended the showing at Olympic Theaters, and 250 saw the midnight screening on Bainbridge.

Gaffa said the books have certainly drawn more teens into Kitsap Regional Library branches, including the Sylvan Way branch, where cardboard cutouts of main characters prompt many visitors to snap pictures.

The Twilight series follows Bella Swan, an Arizonan teen transplanted to rainy Forks, where she meets forever 17-year-old Edward Cullen, a polite, chiseled vampire who must protect her from other creatures who wish her harm. Bella’s friend Jacob, a native of the Quileute tribe, is a muscly man-boy turned werewolf who competes with Edward for Bella's love. In “Eclipse,” vampires and werewolves unite to fight against an evil vampire army, and Edward and Jacob attempt to protect Bella from Victoria, the army's vengeful leader. It’s the third in four books of the story from Meyer, and the third in the five-film franchise, as the final book, “Breaking Dawn,” will be made in two movies.

The books have sold millions of copies worldwide, have been translated into dozens of languages, and have spawned a mini-culture of products, from bedspreads to charm bracelets to cookbooks to clothes.

“Twilight is pretty ridiculous,” said Tamera Leone, an assistant manager at Hot Topic in the Kitsap Mall. Sandwiched between Hello Kitty merchandise and a T-shirt wall sporting the faces of pop icons, there is a full display of Twilight memorabilia in the store. There are prop replicas of Bella’s moonstone ring, water bottles, hoodies and fleece blankets. And, of course, bookmarks.

Hot Topic, a pop-culture chain store, is licensed with Summit Entertainment to offer official movie merchandise. Leone said customers ask for it constantly — slightly more as a movie release approaches — and they range in age from preteen to 60.

"I like the way that Stephenie Meyer puts her words together,” said Leah Wattree, a Twilight fan and manager of the Port Orchard Pavilion. “It’s not the same foofy romance novel. She incorporates the era that Edward was from, the more literary type talk, and modern talk [from Bella’s era].”

Wattree, Catie Malcom of Catie’s Creations and Nicole Broady of The Perfect Place put together Hollywood-style red carpet fanfare for this year’s Bremerton midnight opening. They’ve designed T-shirts and keychains, and fans can pose for a picture with a cardboard cutout of Edward or Jacob. Their additions will also benefit the library.

“I think it’s really great that the library can do a fundraiser and also promote something that has gotten a lot of young kids reading,” said Wattree, 35, who read the entire Twilight series in less than a month. “They have such awesome programs for kids and this will really help their Summer Reading Program. It’s something the whole community should be advocating for.”

Jeff Brein, managing partner of Far Away Entertainment, which owns Bainbridge Cinemas and manages Olympic Theater, said the Twilight movies are one of only a handful of films each year that warrant midnight screenings.

He anticipates the screenings that benefit the library will sell out as they have in the past, despite their higher ticket price of $25, which gets attendees a small popcorn, drink and door prize ticket.

School is out, which helps too.

And as for cinema business, the Twilight series has a shiny track record, the first in the series having grossed more than $382 million worldwide.

“While the Twilight movies have really done very well for us in the core audience, [ages] 12 to 34, it also attracts unusually healthy adult volumes — something we were surprised to see with the first film,” Brein said.

Book sales were slower to explode, it seems. Bethel Avenue Book Company in Port Orchard sold only a handful of “Twilight,” the first book in the series, when it debuted in 2005, said owner Rebecca Guthrie. Even with the release of book “New Moon” in 2006, sales were still slow. But things changed in 2007.

“It seemed to really take off with ‘Eclipse,’” Guthrie said. Word of mouth began to run rampant, and a large fan base in the area amassed. Those fans continued reading with the release of “Breaking Dawn” in 2008.

“In 2008, we said we wouldn’t have had a Christmas if we didn’t have “Breaking Dawn,’” Guthrie added.

Now, Bethel Avenue has a section dedicated to vamp romance and other supernatural love stories for teens and adults. Guthrie said the Twilight books have made way for similar lore in almost every genre.

Enter Sookie Stackhouse, a fictional Louisiana woman with a shapeshifter boss and a fanged boyfriend featured in books by Charlaine Harris and a TV series from HBO, both of which have rocketed in popularity. And then there’s the “Vampire Diaries,” an angsty teen drama drawing viewers on the CW network.

Guthrie contends the Twilight series and its oft-compared predecessor the Harry Potter series did a favor for young adult novels, such as Percy Jackson & the Olympians, which have increasingly attracted adult readers in the past few years.

The books also ushered in a slew of multigenerational reading, with mothers, daughters and grandmothers all getting copies of the same book.

Guthrie, who has read the first of the Twilight books, said any story that broadens the horizons of its readers is worth looking into, and the Twilight series in general comes with its own positive messages.

“There are a lot of positives in the story for girls, the first one being that Edward wanted to protect her and did not want to harm her. Therefore girls could raise their expectations to find somebody who would look out for them, not control them,” she said. “I think the books that get anybody engaged and let them use their imagination and travel to a different kind of place and learn about something else are a good idea.” WU

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