Why Was 'Twilight' Director Axed From Sequel?

It's been a good year for women at the box office. First there was the success of "Sex and the City," based on the hit television show about four female friends, followed by "Mama Mia," the Broadway musical-turned-movie in which Meryl Streep (gasp!) sings.

The recently opened "Twilight," directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is on its way to eclipsing both with a current three-week take of nearly $140 million. About half of that, the film delivered opening weekend, giving Hardwicke the biggest opener ever for a female director.

So, why, industry watchers wonder, is Hardwicke not returning to the director's chair for "New Moon," the next installment of author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series on which the films are based?

"She's done exactly what Hollywood said we have to do as women -- delivered a successful box office movie," Melissa Silverstein, who runs the blog Women & Hollywood, told ABCNews.com. "It does not add up."

Silverstein wrote a blog about Hardwicke's departure under the headline: "What Does a $70 Million Opening Weekend Get Catherine Hardwicke? Fired."

Summit Entertainment, the film's distributor, and Hardwicke, who also directed "The Lords of Dogtown," released a statement Sunday pinning the director's departure on a timing conflict.

"I am sorry that, due to timing, I will not have the opportunity to direct 'New Moon,'" Hardwicke said. "Directing 'Twilight' has been one of the great experiences of my life, and I am grateful to the fans for their passionate support of the film."

"Catherine did an incredible job in helping us launch the 'Twilight' franchise, and we thank her for all of her efforts and we very much hope to work with her on future Summit projects," Summit production president Erik Feig said. "We, as a studio, have a mandate to bring the next installment in the franchise to the big screen in a timely fashion so that fans can get more of Edward, Bella, and all the characters that Stephenie Meyer has created."

CAA, the agency that represents Hardwicke, declined to comment for this story. Hardwicke's publicist declined to comment beyond the released statement. Summit did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Teen Girls

"This is a movie being driven by the young star that teenage girls want to see," Jeanine Basinger, the film studies chair at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, told ABCNews.com. "On that basis, the director seems expendable. The fact that she's a woman makes it sadder for those of us who worry about how few women directors there are. The irony is the fact that she is being treated as an equal -- how a man would be."

But some industry watchers question whether Hardwicke was treated fairly. After one blog quoted a Summit insider as saying Hardwicke was "difficult" and at times "irrational," Silverstein shot back, "Why don't you just call her 'bitch?'"

The news comes as Hardwicke is in the midst of a European tour promoting the film, along with stars Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella Swan, and Robert Pattinson, who plays her vampire lover.

It also comes at a bad time for women directors. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film's annual study, "The Celluloid Ceiling," women made up only 6 percent of directors last year, down from 7 percent in 2006 and 11 percent in 2000.

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