question of the day: After ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight,’ will we see more movies broken up into multiple installments?

The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 1

So, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 earned more than $138 million in North America this past weekend, and an estimated additional $144 million across the rest of the planet. Clearly, fans were not deterred by the fact that they would be seeing only half of the final chapter of Bella and Edward’s romance, and would have to wait a full year to see the story wrapped up.

The same thing happened last year, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 opened in the U.S. and Canada to the tune of $125 million, and went on to earn just under a cool billion dollars around the world. (Fans would have to wait only eight months for Part 2.)

We’ll see this again next year, when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in December 2012 but won’t conclude until The Hobbit: There and Back Again arrives in December 2013.

We’re used to sequels and prequels and films series, but we’ve never seen anything like this before, when discrete stories — as based on preexisting novels — are broken up across multiple films. Big books have been adapted for the screen before, but that meant loooog movies: Gone with the Wind, for instance, based on Margaret Mitchell’s doorstop of a novel, is four hours long.

After Harry Potter and Twilight, will we see more movies broken up into multiple installments? Will we only see movies like these, ending on cliffhangers, when they’re based on novels? I can’t remember a recent film with a cliffhanger ending on the level of, say, The Empire Strikes Back, now more than 30 years old. Possibly Kill Bill: Volume 1… though, notably, its title and that of its sequel evoke books (or perhaps graphic novels). Could Hollywood only get away with such a split when there is an existing and enthusiastic fanbase? Are these splits anything other than moneygrabbing on the studios’ part, a means to get twice the ticket sales out of fans?
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