(Entertainment Weekly) -- ''You are a rock star!''
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson strike sparks in "Twilight."
The moderator at a Sherman Oaks, California, movie theater was paying homage to Catherine Hardwicke. The director had just stunned "Twilight" fans by appearing for a surprise Q&A after a sold-out screening of her movie last Saturday night. The audience screamed as if Zac Efron -- or "Twilight's" own Rob Pattinson, for that matter -- had just strode on stage and dropped his drawers.
''OMG, OMG,'' the girls stuttered, trying desperately to remember their questions. Hardwicke cheerfully navigated the swarm on the way to the stage, comparing their united passion to what it used to be like following the Grateful Dead on tour -- and proceeded to dazzle them.
One 50-year-old woman asked the director what she thought it was about Pattinson's Edward that made women of all ages swoon. A "Twilight" mom in the audience shouted, ''He's gentlemanly and caring and unattainable and mysterious all at the same time!''
Hardwicke laughed and shrugged her shoulders. She said that when she brought her 70-year-old mother to the set she asked her mom if she'd like to meet Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart. To which her mom promptly replied: ''Just Rob.'' EW.com: Meet Robert Pattinson
The first movie to be adapted from Stephenie Meyer's breakout hit -- about the chaste romance between rebel vampire Edward and a shy high school girl named Bella -- left many, if not all, of the author's fans in a state of religious ecstasy. (The unconverted, though, most likely spent the weekend plugging their ears, willing themselves to their happy places where fangirls and vegetarian vampires never roam free.)
Made for less than $40 million, "Twilight" far exceeded box office predictions, pulling in a dizzying $69.6 million over opening weekend. ''Up until this week, everyone was thinking this would be a one-quadrant movie,'' says a top female studio executive. ''The men in this industry are still chasing the young boys -- even after 'Sex and the City.'''
As the weekend's receipts were tallied, Meyer nervously awaited news that the adaptation of her first book was a hit. ''There's that petty part of me that wants the movie to do really great so no one can say 'See, all this buildup for something stupid! Ha, what a flop!''' she'd told EW a few weeks earlier. Turns out her wish was her fans' command. EW.com: "Twilight" Central
The success of "Twilight" must be giving Paramount executives night terrors, since they let the option to Meyer's best-seller lapse in 2006. The fledgling studio that wound up making the film, Summit, knew that it had teenage girls in its pocket, and wisely amped up the action scenes in the trailer in an attempt to snag male viewers as well. ''If you look at the percentage of the trailer that focuses on action,'' Meyer says with a laugh, ''it's not the same percentage in the movie.''
So, newcomers to the "Twilight" phenomenon like Calvin Johnson went into a Los Angeles screening on Friday night thinking he and his friend were walking into a horror film. ''We're hoping to see at least a couple of teenage girls get their heads cut off,'' the 44-year-old said. Alas, he surely went home disappointed, just like Mack Sims, 42, who left a Manhattan screening well before the credits. ''Horrible!'' he cried on his way out of the theater. ''I love vampire movies. I love when Vincent Price is doing vampire movies. But this is one of the worst!''
Not all men were so disenchanted, though. At a midnight screening in Texarkana, Texas, last Thursday, a gentleman dropped to his knee with a ring as the credits rolled. To the delight of the screaming crowd, he asked his girlfriend if theirs might be as enduring and unconditional a love as the one shared by Edward and Bella.
On Saturday morning, after celebrating news that the film had already taken in more than $35 million, Summit e-mailed a letter to "Twilight" fans, signed by stars Pattinson and Stewart, expressing gratitude and delight at moving forward with a sequel. But the studio still hasn't confirmed whether the rest of the cast will be brought aboard for "New Moon."
Fans are particularly invested in whether Taylor Lautner, who is markedly shorter and more boyish-looking than Meyer's description of his character, Jacob, will return to vie for Bella's heart. ''We are definitely talking and thinking about it right now,'' says Erik Feig, Summit's president of production. ''Taylor's fantastic as Jacob in "Twilight." I think when we get closer to shooting, the director is going to look at everyone as if they are brand-new to the role.''
And just who that director will be remains to be seen. As of press time, Hardwicke -- who now holds the record for best opening-weekend box office for a female director -- hadn't signed on. But she spent much of the weekend sequestered in meetings with lawyers, agents and studio executives. She felt hamstrung by her modest budget through much of the "Twilight" shoot. ''I had more elaborate stunt sequences designed and very crazy, cool stuff that I wanted to do,'' she says. ''We had locations taken away. We had five days cut before we started to shoot. But, you know, I kind of got past that, I just had to let it go.''
After the grueling production, Hardwicke now wants to make sure the studio shows her the money to properly tackle "New Moon'"s tricky plotline -- which includes location shooting in Rome and several characters who must realistically morph from teenage boys into werewolves.
Summit's Feig has nothing but praise for Hardwicke, but he maintains that the sequel doesn't necessarily demand a bigger budget. ''I don't think there was anything excessively lavish about "Twilight," and yet the world was fully realized,'' he says. ''We'll do exactly the same thing with New Moon.'' Still, the studio might want to throw more money at the universally trashed special effect that was supposed to make Pattinson sparkle magically in the sunlight but left him looking merely sweaty. ''People make realistic CGI dragons, so you wouldn't think making people sparkle would be that hard,'' says Meyer.
For now, only Pattinson and Stewart are sure to live on in Meyer's fantasy world. The two young stars, neither of whom banked on this sudden explosion of fame when they signed on for the movie, are currently limping through the last lap of their American promotional tour. (After a brief Thanksgiving rest, they'll gear up again to spread "Twilight" fever across Europe.)
Stewart in particular seems ill-suited for the rigors of sound-bite TV, as she fidgeted and frowned her way through awkward appearances on "Late Show With David Letterman" and the "Today" show. ''I think she's had a lot of trouble,'' says Hardwicke. ''She knows it's important, but it's not her favorite part of the job.''
Pattinson seems to have a better game face, drowsily mystified when teenage girls throw themselves onto his moving car or when Tyra Banks asks him to bite her neck on her talk show. He did have one flash of rebellion, however: ''I cannot wait to cut my hair,'' he told EW in September. ''It's so annoying! I was at a photo shoot the other day, and people were saying, 'They say we can't touch your hair. You have trademarked hair!' No, I don't.'' And so, despite the studio's request that his ragged mop not be touched, he cut off his hair in between press junkets.
Fans can now debate online whether Pattinson is dreamier with short or long hair, just as they continue to wrestle over whether they love or hate the film they'd imagined in their heads for so long. Lisa Hansen, the creator of the website Twilight Moms, says the movie has left her blog community polarized. ''But the interesting thing about this is that everyone is also saying how after seeing it a second time they loved it,'' she wrote in an e-mail before heading out to her fourth screening. ''It seems to be the general consensus that it gets even better every time you see it.''
And so the phenomenon lives on, and on, and on. ''I went in expecting it to be crap and completely ruin my idea of the books,'' says Danylle Utley, a 31-year-old accountant and married mother who is the president of Salt Lake Twilighters Anonymous. ''And it completely amazed me.'' She saw the movie three times by the end of the weekend, including a Thursday midnight screening where she and 24 fellow club members dressed up in prom gowns and ate mushroom ravioli for dinner as homages to Bella and Edward's romance.
''People think that I'm insane because I'm so invested with this fandom,'' she says with a giggle. ''But they're all just jealous that the things they love aren't this big.''
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Additional reporting by Dafna Pleban, Lindsay Soll, Kate Ward, and John Young
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