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'Twilight's' tent city: Hundreds of campers await L.A. premiere

Fans contend with chilly temperatures before world premiere of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,' last of a series with a heavily female audience.

November 12, 2012|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

For the last six months, Jessica Peachman's husband worked overtime at his car mechanic job so he could help send his wife on her dream vacation.

The $8,000 that the couple eventually cobbled together wouldn't deliver Peachman to the shores of Fiji, the Eiffel Tower or DisneyWorld. Instead, the money allowed the 25-year-old to fly 7,500 miles from her native Australia to downtown Los Angeles, where this past weekend she and hundreds of others spent four nights sleeping in flimsy tents anxiously awaiting Monday night's world premiere of the fifth and final "Twilight" movie.

"Being around thousands of people who get you and your weirdness makes all of the effort and money so worth it," said Peachman, who wore a tank top emblazoned with the Australian flag. "There's no other fan base that's like this. We're all family."

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Monday's premiere marks the culmination of a franchise that became a pop culture phenomenon among teenage girls around the world. Since the first film based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels exploded onto the big screen in 2008, the series has racked up more than $2.5 billion in global ticket sales, amassing 80 million fans on its Facebook page and 167 million views on its YouTube hub. Meyer's four books, meanwhile, have sold 116 million copies worldwide.

Unlike the "Harry Potter" or "Transformers" movie series, which also owe their success largely to young moviegoers, "Twilight" appeals to a heavily female audience. Roughly two-thirds of the fans — known as "Twihards" — are women, many of whom say they are drawn to the material primarily because of the melodramatic love story at its core and fantasy punctuated with intense danger, bloodletting and revenge. Kristen Stewart's character, Bella, falls so desperately for the sullen vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), that she risks her life to become one as well.

"The fact that 'Twilight' was such a female-oriented experience was really what set it apart," said Rebecca Williams, a lecturer at the United Kingdom's University of Glamorgan, where she studies "Twilight" fan culture. "'Twilight' fans have been victim of the stereotype that they are just hysterical young girls that scream uncontrollably and need to get a life. But for many of these young women, the fan community is somewhere where you have a place and can work out who you are or who you want to be."

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Peachman was one of nearly 2,000 fans who have descended on L.A. since late last week to celebrate the arrival of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2" and watch Stewart, Pattinson and fellow star Taylor Lautner walk the red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre.

Fans, contending with wintry temperatures, decorated their tents and sleeping areas beneath a big top with handmade posters, glossy pages ripped from teeny-bopper magazines and photographs of themselves with "Twilight" cast members.

Peachman, who flew to America with two other Aussies she met on Facebook, said she is devoted to the series because of its inspirational message.

"Stephenie Meyer dreamt up this fantasy world and it became a huge success, and that just proves dreams can come true," she said, hours before one of the films' stars, Jackson Rathbone, signed her wrist — an autograph she planned to turn into a tattoo. "Plus, the story has everything. It's a love story, but it's got tragedy and triumph and babies and bad boys."

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The series' melodrama also extends off-screen. Since the franchise's inception, its fans have been closely following the real-life romance between the two stars, whose relationship was tested this past summer. Paparazzi caught Stewart, 22, and 41-year-old Rupert Sanders, who directed her in "Snow White and the Huntsman," in mid-embrace, and the pictures were splashed all over the cover of Us Weekly in July.

Stewart and Pattinson have since appeared to reconcile, though some skeptical fans think their relationship is nothing more than a well-orchestrated publicity stunt to sell more movie tickets.

Huddled around their tent Thursday evening, Garden Grove natives Jasmine Henslee, 26, and April Yepez, 27, discussed their feelings about Stewart.

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"I wish she wouldn't have been so naive to think no one would catch her. But I think it was a one-time thing — Rupert was older, and he wooed her," Yepez said.

"I wish Rob didn't take her back," her sister Henslee piped in with a sigh. "He's the kind of guy who wants to stay in and watch a movie and she's, like, reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and raring to go."

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