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DEC
20
3 YEARS

'Twilight's' Melissa Rosenberg Becomes Highest-Grossing Female Screenwriter

The scribe has generated more than $2.5 billion in worldwide revenue.

Melissa Rosenberg
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Image

Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg got an extra gift this holiday season. With The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 continuing its blockbuster run in theaters around the world -- $647.3 million in grosses and counting -- Rosenberg has become the highest-grossing female screenwriter in Hollywood, with more than $2.56 billion in worldwide revenue.

In the last two weeks, the total grosses for movies Rosenberg has written surpassed those of Linda Woolverton, whose 20-year career had its biggest hit in 2010 with the Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland adaptation. That Disney release cleared the billion-dollar mark ($1.024 billion) and stands as the ninth-highest-grossing movie of all time. The Lion King, which Woolverton also co-wrote, is now 14th on that list thanks to a recent 3D re-release, with $945.6 million in worldwide revenue. Combined with her other produced work, those movies contribute the lion’s share of Woolverton’s $2.39 billion total.

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(On the male side, Harry Potter serieswriter Steve Kloves is the leader with approximately $6.8 billion in worldwide grosses; The Amazing Spider-Man, which he co-wrote, opens in July. James Cameron also has generated more than $6 billion in worldwide grosses as a writer.)

As with most measurements of this type, there are a few asterisks. A longtime Disney collaborator, Woolverton contributed material to the studio’s animated Mulan, as well, which grossed $304.3 million in 1998. She did not receive screenplay credit, however, so that figure is not included in her total. There is also the issue of factoring in inflation, which would have a great effect on some of Woolverton’s earlier films -- Lion King (1994) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) -- to the tune of some $800 million more in adjusted grosses.

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Plus, on the heels of Lion King’s tremendous 3D re-release success this fall, Disney has scheduled a 3D version of Beast for release Jan. 13. If that re-release does as well as Lion King‘s did at theaters -- about $160 million -- she could come close to regaining the title from Rosenberg even without an adjustment for inflation. And Beast did better than King with its 2002 Imax re-release, so that outcome is entirely possible.

Still, Breaking Part 1 isn’t finished its theatrical run yet. And Rosenberg, who’s repped by UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment, has another huge card up her sleeve: Breaking Dawn Part 2, which comes out in November 2012. If it plays as well as the previous installments in the franchise, it will add another $700 million-plus to Rosenberg’s total, giving her a substantial lead in the screenwriter sweepstakes.

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But even then nothing is settled. Woolverton has two big projects in development: an Alice sequel and the Sleeping Beauty/wicked witch project Maleficent, with Angelina Jolie attached, both at Disney. On paper, either film has the potential to do huge business at the global box office. And Rosenberg is currently working on an adaptation of the young-adult sci-fi novel Earthseed for Paramount.

Here’s the breakdown:

Melissa Rosenberg
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011) - $647.3m worldwide (and counting)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) - $698.5m worldwide
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) - $709.8m worldwide
Twilight (2008) - $392.6m worldwide
Step Up (2006) - $114.2m worldwide

Linda Woolverton
Alice in Wonderland (2010) - $1.024 billion worldwide
Arctic Tale (2007) - $1.9m worldwide
The Lion King (1994) - $945.6m worldwide
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) - $41.8m worldwide
Beauty and the Beast (1991) - $377.4m worldwide