Weekend Box Office (July 2 - 5, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Vampires and werewolves, plus a certain mortal gal in between, ruled the four-day Independence Day holiday frame as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse exploded with a massive top spot debut. Also generating muscular results by bringing a property with a large built-in fan base to the big screen was The Last Airbender which counter-programmed Bella and company by appealing to boys resulting in a strong finish in the runner-up spot despite some of the year's worst reviews. With Toy Story 3 still attracting large crowds, the overall marketplace swelled delivering spectacular results to kick off the second half of 2010.

Summit's crown jewel kept getting bigger. Eclipse, the third installment of the lucrative five-film Twilight franchise, debuted to heated anticipation and generated a stunning $176.4M in ticket sales in its first six days of release from Wednesday to Monday, according to final studio figures. The tally consisted of $92.8M during the week on Wednesday and Thursday and $83.6M over the Friday-to-Monday period. The weekend figure was deflated by the mid-week bow which pushed the intense upfront demand to Wednesday, but the overall extended start is truly remarkable.

The PG-13 Eclipse flexed major muscles with a stellar $68.5M on Wednesday becoming the second largest opening day in box office history trailing just the $72.7M Friday of The Twilight Saga: New Moon from last November. Eclipse set a new benchmark as the widest release ever playing in 4,468 locations. The four-day weekend average hit $18,719. Exit polls showed a broadening of the audience with the new pic's crowd being 65% female compared to 80% for New Moon. Eclipse was also the first in the series to play on IMAX screens which helped out the grosses too. That format has pulled in a remarkable $9M to date from 193 playdates.

Overseas, Eclipse was red hot too with an estimated $100.2M since Wednesday from 42 territories with major markets like the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Korea still to come. New Moon grossed $709M worldwide and this new saga could beat it.

M. Night Shyamalan enjoyed the best opening - and total gross - for any film in six years with the 3D fantasy adventure The Last Airbender which debuted in second place with $51.8M over the Friday-to-Monday period. The PG-rated film based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series averaged a sturdy $16,347 from 3,169 locations and has collected an impressive $69.3M in its first five days since its Thursday launch putting it ahead of the director's last two films The Happening and Lady in the Water which grossed $64.5M and $42.3M, respectively. All three share a common trait - they were all panned by critics.

Airbender, with a reported production cost of $150M, has been met with the worst reviews of the filmmaker's career, but the target audience of young males came out on opening weekend anyway for the special effects and the franchise's brand name. A late-in-the-game upgrade to 3D added to the ticket prices too. Despite what should be large declines in the days and weeks ahead, market share leader Paramount should still score its fifth $100M+ grosser of 2010.

Bumped down to number three over the holiday weekend was Toy Story 3 which pulled in $43.1M in its third frame. The Disney/Pixar sensation watched its cume soar to an amazing $301.9M putting it at number 35 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind the $302M of 2009's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Toy Story 3 may still reach the $400M barrier.

Adam Sandler and his comedy pals landed in fourth with Grown Ups which grossed $26.1M. The three-day decline of 54% was similar to the 52% fall the funnyman's 1999 hit Big Daddy suffered in its second weekend when Independence Day also fell on a Sunday. Grown Ups could be headed for a final tally in the neighborhood of $140M proving that Sandler still has what paying audiences want.

On the other hand, Tom Cruise is learning that moviegoers are losing interest in him as his latest entry Knight and Day is turning into one of the lowest-grossing action films of his career. The Fox release dropped to $14.2M this weekend and lifted its 13-day sum to only $49.5M. Knight is on course to end its run in the same vicinity as Cruise's 1990 summer action pic Days of Thunder which made $82.7M at a time when the average movie ticket price was just $4.23.

80s remakes followed as The Karate Kid took in $11M in sixth while the less successful The A-Team collected $4.4M in seventh place. Sony's Jaden Smith pic has taken in a stellar $154.6M to date and Fox's action title upped its total to $70.5M.

Universal's hit comedy Get Him to the Greek tumbled to $1.7M raising its cume to $58M. Losing even more 3D screens, Shrek Forever After crashed to $1.3M and a $232.7M total.

Indie hit Cyrus was close behind and jumped into the top ten in tenth place with $1.1M from only 77 theaters for a strong $14,209 average. Expanding in its third frame from 17 locations, the Fox Searchlight release has grossed $1.8M and will continue to invade more cities in July.

The top ten films grossed $238.2M over the long four-day holiday stretch which was up from last year when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen stayed in the top spot with $42.3M over three days; and up from 2008 when Hancock debuted at number one with $62.6M.

Compared to Friday-to-Sunday projections, Eclipse debuted below my $85M forecast while The Last Airbender opened close to my $37M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For reviews of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Last Airbender, visit The Chief Report.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jul 2 - 5 Jun 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse $ 83,637,242 4,468 1 $ 18,719 $ 176,382,220 Summit
2 The Last Airbender 51,804,232 3,169 1 16,347 69,315,329 Paramount
3 Toy Story 3 43,057,129 59,337,669 -27.4 4,028 3 10,689 301,883,298 Buena Vista
4 Grown Ups 26,052,792 40,506,562 -35.7 3,534 2 7,372 84,634,307 Sony
5 Knight and Day 14,151,734 20,139,985 -29.7 3,104 2 4,559 49,460,348 Fox
6 The Karate Kid 11,031,522 15,547,421 -29.0 3,109 4 3,548 154,554,780 Sony
7 The A-Team 4,403,057 6,204,454 -29.0 2,153 4 2,045 70,494,007 Fox
8 Get Him to the Greek 1,723,840 3,140,780 -45.1 884 5 1,950 57,965,435 Universal
9 Shrek Forever After 1,275,957 3,101,365 -58.9 957 7 1,333 232,664,432 Paramount
10 Cyrus 1,094,111 301,227 263.2 77 3 14,209 1,811,985 Fox Searchlight
11 Letters to Juliet 972,374 406,548 139.2 340 8 2,860 51,094,679 Summit
12 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 884,816 2,845,684 -68.9 600 6 1,475 88,338,986 Buena Vista
13 Iron Man 2 875,834 1,436,378 -39.0 522 9 1,678 308,530,297 Paramount
14 I Am Love 722,544 248,120 191.2 80 3 9,032 1,290,480 Magnolia
15 Solitary Man 658,628 476,431 38.2 176 7 3,742 2,917,807 Anchor Bay
16 Killers 628,261 1,938,681 -67.6 727 5 864 45,323,590 Lionsgate
17 Winter's Bone 598,699 437,355 36.9 83 4 7,213 1,880,590 Roadside Attrac.
18 Sex and the City 2 528,330 1,219,345 -56.7 355 6 1,488 94,223,099 Warner Bros.
19 Marmaduke 483,697 977,386 -50.5 475 5 1,018 30,939,738 Fox
20 How To Train Your Dragon 481,505 477,499 0.8 303 15 1,589 216,296,739 Paramount
Top 5 $ 218,703,129 $ 141,736,091 54.3
Top 10 238,231,616 154,390,043 54.3
Top 20 245,066,304 161,133,690 52.1
Top 20 vs. 2009 245,066,304 159,275,020 53.9

Last Updated: July 6, 2010 at 6:00PM ET