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Box office: 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' is huge but just short of 'New Moon'; 'Airbender' has solid start [updated]

July 5, 2010 |  9:45 am

TwilightEclipseFans The new "Twilight" is a massive success by any yardstick except for the last "Twilight."

Despite being the first movie in the vampire romance saga to play in the summer and on Imax screens, which carry a ticket-price surcharge, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" collected $3.6 million less than last November's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" in its first six days in theaters.

"Eclipse" grossed $175.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment, from its opening on Wednesday through Monday (July 5 being a national holiday). That makes it the most successful first six days of any film that’s opened so far in 2010 and another hugely profitable "Twilight" picture for Summit. "Eclipse" cost about $68 million to produce. "Eclipse" cost about $68 million to produce.

Precise comparisons are tough since "New Moon" opened on a Friday and the new film on a Wednesday, but the biggest difference between them seemed to come on Saturday. That was "Eclipse's" fourth day in theaters, and it grossed $23.9 million; it was the second day in theaters for "New Moon," which grossed $42.3 million. The differences between the two movies on other days were smaller.

If Summit's decision to shift the opening day for the new "Twilight" to the summer pays off, it will be evident in the coming days. With more young people out of school and available to go to movie theaters during the week, the studio is aiming for stronger weekday performances, leading to a higher ultimate domestic gross.

In good news for the studio, "Eclipse" reached a more diverse audience than the last "Twilight" film: 65% of those who came out for the new film were female, compared with 80% for the last one, and 55% were over 21, compared with "New Moon's" 50%. That fact, and its average audience grade of A, indicates that "Eclipse" might not fall as rapidly at the box office as "New Moon," which saw ticket sales plummet 70% on its second weekend after getting an average audience grade of A-.

Overseas, "Eclipse" collected a healthy $104.6 million in 42 foreign countries through Sunday. Comparisons to "New Moon" are difficult since the last film rolled out internationally on a different schedule, but all signs indicate that "Eclipse" should do about as well as its predecessor, which grossed $413 million overseas, about 58% of its worldwide total. [Update, 11:38 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said "Eclipse" grossed $100.2 million overseas, but Summit has provided more up-to-date numbers.]

Airbender "The Last Airbender," the only other new movie to open this weekend, started off with a solid $70.5 million from its Thursday opening through Monday. That's a good beginning for the film, which cost Paramount Pictures about $150 million to make, and shows that its core audience was not turned off by overwhelmingly negative reviews.

But there's reason for Paramount to worry that "Airbender," its only big-budget event movie of the summer, may disappear from theaters quickly. Ticket sales declined every day that the film was in theaters, with the exception of Sunday to Monday, and audiences gave it an average grade of C, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That indicates moviegoers aren't saying good things to friends and family about the M. Night Shyamalan-directed action-adventure picture, which played in 3-D at a little more than half its theaters.

"Airbender" is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon that's popular with boys and drew an audience that was 55% male and 55% younger than 25. The film has yet to open in foreign countries, where it may perform better given its copious special effects and multicultural cast.

Several movies already in theaters held on fairly well on what was, overall, a healthy moviegoing weekend. "Toy Story 3," "Grown Ups," "Knight & Day" and "The Karate Kid" all saw their ticket sales decline by about 50%.

Total box-office revenue for the Friday-Sunday weekend was up 19% from last year, when July 4 fell on a Saturday, according to Hollywood.com.

[Update, 11:38 a.m.: In limited release, "Cyrus," the comedy starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei, continues to do well. It expanded from 60 theaters to 77 and took in just over $1 million for the four-day weekend, bringing its total to $1.7 million.

“Shrek Forever After” opened in several key foreign markets this weekend to healthy results. The DreamWorks Animation 3-D sequel collected $13.1 million in Britain, similar to “Kung Fu Panda,” and $11.7 million in France, the biggest-ever DreamWorks Animation opening there, just slightly ahead of “Shrek the Third.” In South Korea, the latest "Shrek" opened to $6.1 million.

Its international total is now $135.5 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (Summit): $82.5 million for the four-day weekend. $104.6 million overseas in 42 foreign markets through Sunday. Domestic total since Wednesday: $175.3 million.

2. “The Last Airbender” (Paramount): $53.2 million for the four-day weekend. Domestic total: $70.5 million.

3. “Toy Story 3” (Disney/Pixar): $42.2 million for the four-day weekend, down 49% on a three-day basis. $28.5 million overseas in 34 foreign markets. Domestic total: $301.1 million. International total: $153.2 million.

4. “Grown Ups” (Sony/Relativity): $26.5 million for the four-day weekend, down 53% on a three-day basis. $1.7 million overseas in six foreign markets. Domestic total: $85.1 million. International total: $5.3 million.

5. “Knight and Day” (Fox/New Regency/Dune): $14 million for the four-day weekend, down 48% on a three-day basis. $7.8 million overseas in 25 foreign markets. Domestic total: $49.3 million. International total: $24.7 million.

6. “The Karate Kid” (Sony/China Film Group): $11.5 million for the four-day weekend, down 48% on a three-day basis. $3.9 million overseas in 25 foreign markets. Domestic total: $155 million. International total: $31.9 million.

7. “The A-Team” (Fox/Dune): $4.3 million for the four-day weekend, down 49% on a three-day basis. $3.7 million overseas in 46 foreign markets. Domstic total: $70.4 million. International total: $54.4 million.

8. “Get Him to the Greek” (Universal/Relativity/Spyglass): $1.7 million for the four-day weekend, down 60% on a three-day basis. $2.4 million overseas in nine foreign markets. Domestic total: $57.9 million. International total: $14.7 million.

9. “Shrek Forever After” (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $1.3 million for the four-day weekend, down 73% on a three-day basis. $41 million overseas in 30 foreign markets. Domestic total: $232.6 million. International total: $135.5 million.

10. “Cyrus” (Fox Searchlight): $1 million for the four-day weekend, up 157% on a three-day basis. Domestic total: $1.7 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Fan Yolanda Rodriguez kisses a likeness of "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson at the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" in Los Angeles on June 24, 2010. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters.  Noah Ringer in "The Last Airbender." Credit: Industrial Light & Magic

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