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Merrimack Valley

January 24, 2013

Studios step into the post-'Twilight,' pre-'Hunger Games' void

Angsty teenage love may be as old as Shakespeare and the Brontë sisters, but with the star-crossed lover motif getting a makeover (often introducing elements of the supernatural) in the last few years from novelists Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins, Hollywood has been stalking the young adult book market with the ferocity of a jilted lover. One result is a pileup at the box office this season of female-driven stories with strong-willed protagonists battling zombies, witches and aliens while wrestling with their own overwrought emotions.

In the next three months Summit Entertainment, Open Road Films and Warner Bros. will, respectively, release three movies targeting this voracious crowd: “Warm Bodies,” “The Host” and “Beautiful Creatures.” But with so many fighting for attention, will there be enough audience adoration to go around?

“What I think we have going for us is I think we hit a lot of the touch points (teenage girls) want: We have the romantic elements, we have a strong female character that I think is very appealing, and we are tapping into the teenage worldview, when life is so vivid,” said Jonathan Levine, screenwriter and director of the zombie romance “Warm Bodies,” which is set to open Feb. 1.

Each of the three male writer-directors of these projects are coming to the genre for the first time, attracted to the high-stakes material for the varied themes each one offers on coming of age, love and internal struggle — the emotions that seem to overwhelm the teenage condition. Adding in the supernatural aspect allowed each of the filmmakers a greater scope to tell his tale.

While the new films have been made for a fraction of the price of that of their predecessors, key to their success will be luring in the “Twilight” / “Hunger Games” audience. Add in the fact that the “Twilight” franchise ended in November and the next “Hunger Games” installment won’t hit theaters until Thanksgiving, and the studios are hoping there’s a built-in audience for this romantic fare.

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