Dazzled by ‘Twilight’

Santa Barbara News-Press | November 15, 2012
by Scott Steepleton

While fans everywhere line up for tonight’s opening of “The Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2,” the fifth and final movie in based on Stephenie Meyer’s vampire tale, supporters of a local nonprofit agency that places abused, abandoned and neglected babies in foster homes already know how the end of the story looks on the big screen.

Hundreds of Twi-hards purchased advance tickets for a benefit screening of the Summit Entertainment movie at the Arlington Theatre on Wednesday night, with proceeds going to Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara. Founded in 2005 by Meichelle Arntz, Angels Foster Care focuses primarily on children 2 and under (and siblings as old as 5) who are entering foster care for the first time.

“We take 20 new babies a year, and are caring for 50 a year now,” Ms. Arntz told the News-Press.

For all of the “Twilight” films, the foster family agency was able to hold a pre-release screening as a fundraiser thanks to Robert Friedman, co-chairman and CEO of Summit, which early this year was purchased for a reported $412.5 million by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Mr. Friedman is a friend of Angels board member Lynda Elton and her husband, Byron.

Wednesday’s event featured general admission tickets for $25, and a VIP party in the theater courtyard and preferred seating inside for $100.

Everything went as planned – and the fans had a great time.

An estimated 520 fans waited in the general admission line that ran out to State Street and down the block.

Aeron Torres, 30, near the front of the line, has been following the series since the first book.

“I only wait in line for special movies,” he said.

That theme ran the length of the line. All agreed the series was special and worth the wait. When asked, Traci Ried, speaking for her group, simply said, “Because we’re Twi-hards!”

Melissa Blanchard, 27, jokingly said she was hoping to see a public apology from Bella to Edward over the recent real-life spat between the actors who play those two characters, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. But she was ultimately just “glad to help a good cause and see it two days early so I can rub it in everyone’s faces.”

Sophia and Julie Fay, 12-year-old twins and both members of Team Jacob because Edward is “too pale” were at the VIP party.

“So cool that I get to go to this,” Sophia said.

The girls have been fans since the first movie, although they admit they haven’t read the books because their mom wouldn’t let them, and are unsure how it will end.

Sophia said she just wanted it to be a “good, surprise ending.”

“A happy ending,” Julia added.

They both plan to read the books in the future, with Sophia noting, “I think we’re allowed to now.”

Ms. Arntz, who patterned Angels after a foster care network in San Diego, said the final fundraiser in the “Twilight” film series was bittersweet.

“It’s our last one and we’re sad. We just feel so lucky that we had such generous people supporting us,” she said.

As for Mr. Friedman and Summit, she added. “He’s been just so generous to give us these films. It’s been so much fun.”

Based on the four books by Ms. Meyer, what began in 2008 with a little movie (“Twilight’) about a vampire and a teenage girl who fall in love and featuring a cast of relative unknowns, has grown into a five-movie franchise with a two-part ending that has a worldwide following.

In the run-up to Wednesday’s event, Ms. Arntz reflected on how things have changed since that first benefit screening.

“By the time you’ve done an event several times, it runs like clockwork. But your first time is a mighty effort getting everything in place.”

The first event, coinciding with the release of “Twilight,” was in a theater that held just 250 people. It was a sell-out.

With every new installment since, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” in 2009, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” in 2010, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” in 2011 and now “Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” the crowd was at least double the first event’s.

Growth meant a change in venue.

We’ve been at the Arlington ever since the first year,” said Ms. Arntz. They (Metropolitan Theatres) are so kind to let us have the theater year after year.”

The events have featured “Twilight” merchandise giveaways, themed treats, “wolf” cameos and other activities suited to fans.

And starting the second year, “Angels families” – those who are going through or have gone through Ms. Arntz’s agency – have been pulled from the general admission line and admitted to the VIP party.

“It’s an Angels appreciation kind of night for them,” said Ms. Arntz. “They’re our guests for the night.”

And oh, what nights they’ve been.

“We’re so sad it’s over,” said Ms. Arntz. “We wish there were three more movies.”

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