Forecast: The Last Airbender
Airbender Forecast/Daily Numbers
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
July 1, 2010
It almost feels like an afterthought to discuss The Last Airbender and its box office prospects. I'm sure that when the good people at Paramount Pictures staked out the prime July 4th slot on the release schedule, they believed that a 3-D extravaganza targeted at kids had an excellent chance at success. And sure, M. Night Shyamalan has had a couple of bumps in the road recently, but he's still the guy who directed The Sixth Sense, right? RIGHT?
With The Last Airbender's arrival in theaters, it feels like it is in the shadow of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in every possible way. For example, let's look at their opening days. Eclipse opened with huge fanfare on Wednesday, including midnight sneaks that took place early on that day. You couldn't look at a news outlet or social media site that wasn't making you fully aware of the movie's presence in theaters. And fans reacted to it as you might expect. The movie shattered the record for midnight sneaks with $30 million and made about $67 million on Wednesday total (more on that in a bit).
How does The Last Airbender compare? Well, it opened with midnight sneaks on Thursday. I admit that I had no idea that the movie was opening today. I presumed it was going with the Friday slot, but I guess Paramount liked the success they had with Transformers in the past using the Thursday opening approach, and thought they'd try it with this hopeful franchise star. Well, The Last Airbender made $3 million in its midnight sneaks (note: NOT a record) and was overshadowed in the news by Twilight for the entire day.
And while BOP is generally of the opinion that reviews don't really matter, we simply have to cover them here. A lot of people are saying that Eclipse is the best movie of the the three. Yes, this is akin to saying that the Houston Astros are the best team out of the worst baseball teams in Major league Baseball, but still. Eclipse currently sits with a 50% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, which is admittedly just so-so, but it's also not an embarrassment. The same can't be said for The Last Airbender, which has received scathing reviews (Ebert in particular hits it hard) to the tune of being only 5% fresh. We've even heard reports of people walking out of their midnight screenings because it was so terrible. Considering that folks who attend the late night screenings are apt to be most likely to appreciate a film, this is bad news indeed.
What does all this mean for The Last Airbender's box office potential? Well, it's likely to have a $7-8 million Thursday. If it can pull off more, the movie might be able to save itself. If its total for Thursday is lower, we're probably going to be calling it the bomb of the year. Sadly, the latter scenario seems more probable. $26 million is our forecast for the three-day portion of the weekend, which means that it will have around $34 million by the time the holiday weekend is over. And this is terrible news for Paramount, because...
...one other area where Eclipse has trumped The Last Airbender is budget. Eclipse's budget has been reported at $65 million, less than half what it cost to make The Last Airbender ($155 million). Vampires and werewolves are just that much more marketable than....airbendery...kids.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Box Office Analysis
As was reported yesterday, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse shattered its own record in becoming the most lucrative midnight exhibition of all time, garnering an astounding $30 million overnight. This makes sense in that we are discussing a movie that celebrates creatures of the night. It’s only fitting that oversexed women would want to be out as late as possible on the off-chance vampires are real. Come to think of it, this makes Twilight opening days Vampire Christmas. Or vampire hunting season. Or something like that. None of this speculation matters since vampires aren’t real and Twilight fans clearly aren’t getting laid anyway.
The point is that Eclipse failed to sustain its momentum over the first 20 hours of its release, slowing down from the scorching 12:01 a.m. pace to become only moderately popular Wednesday afternoon. This is how the news is being reported anyway as Eclipse earned “only” $38.5 million, a total representing the 31st largest single day of box office on its own and one of the best half dozen Wednesday openings on record. Combined with the previous night of box office, we’re talking about the second biggest single day of box office thus far, meaning The Twilight Saga claims the top two spots on this list.
To our astonishment, some analysis of this is negative as if Twilight has faded in some way. Simply put, there is no logical support for such an argument. The previous iteration, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, opened on a Friday. There is a natural advantage for a weekend release over a mid-week one. While there may come a time when a massive single day of box office still represents a disappointment (probably on something with a Robin Hood-sized out of control production budget), this isn’t it. A film with a $65 million budget earned $68.5 million in 24 hours on a Wednesday. That’s the stuff of myth and legend. Let’s try to keep a bit of perspective here no matter how much you may hate or love all things Bella Swan.
What happens next is where the debate lies. Yes, there will be a significant decline on Thursday, and this is particularly true if people choose to post the misleading percentage drop based on overall Thursday box office. In reality, the $38.5 million Eclipse earned during the day is the jumping off point for expectations. As such, even a $20 million performance wouldn’t be shocking or even troubling. Anything more than that is solid to respectable. A lot more than that means we’re looking at a juggernaut. As fate would have it, John Hamann and Tim Briody are both off this weekend, meaning that we will be anchoring the BOP coverage of Eclipse all weekend. In case you’re wondering, Kim is Team Edward and David is Team Jacob.