Weekend Wrap-Up for July 2-4, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Box Office

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

July 4, 2010

Vampires have a very strict dress code (a lot of denim is required).

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If all the data makes your eyes glaze over, reduce the above to this. Early behavior over the July 4th holiday is in no way indicative of final performance for a title. Spider-Man 2 went on to run very well due to its exceptional word-of-mouth. Eclipse certainly does not have that pedigree, but its 63% fresh rating among top critics at Rotten Tomatoes might as well be an Academy Award for Best Picture compared to New Moon. If you want an opinion on the future of Eclipse, ours is that the movie will be heavily frontloaded and eventually fall short of New Moon’s $296.6 million. For the moment, there is no data that demonstrates this irrefutably, though. What we do know is that Eclipse has earned back its budget (and then some) in only five days of release. It is the third consecutive Twilight blockbuster and once again makes Summit Entertainment look brilliant for acquiring the franchise on the cheap.

Despite horrific reviews and word-of-mouth, The Last Airbender does manage to muscle its way into second place with a solid $40.6 million from Friday-to-Sunday. Its total since its Thursday opening is $57 million. Clearly, the M. Night Shyamalan flick had plenty of built-in audience from the kids' show that continues to air in reruns even now. Since Twilight is obviously targeted solidly at females, Paramount had the young male demographic all to itself. The fact that the ads were touting the film's 3-D couldn't have hurt, either (at least not until people saw it and denigrated it).


The studio is probably going to have to be happy with just one good week and then a steep drop-off to follow. The Last Airbender was absolutely shredded by reviewers, earning only an 8% fresh rating (and a similar 7% from Top Critics). Even worse, audiences agree. Opening weekend crowds "awarded" The Last Airbender a pathetic C Cinemascore, which is generally a terrible sign for word-of-mouth. In theory, the dedicated viewers who make an effort to see a movie in its opening weekend are more enthusiastic. People are simply saying "blah" to The Last Airbender. Or even "Why, God, why?"

What does this mean for Shyamalan, who wrote and directed the film? Well, the good news is that The Last Airbender did have a stronger opening than The Happening, and in fact will probably surpass that movie's domestic total by Friday or so. Even so, studios are not going to be overly enthusiastic to hand over the reins to Shyamalan for properties that could possibly become franchises. If The Last Airbender falls next weekend like its word-of-mouth indicates it should, Paramount will certainly think twice about a sequel. $150 million is just too steep a price tag for the risk.

Third place goes to Toy Story 3, which saw its numbers drop due to competition from July 4th family activities. The rapturously reviewed Pixar film added another $30.2 million to its coffers, a drop of 49% (which is actually tied for strongest amongst all of the holdovers, believe it or not). Thus far, Toy Story 3 has earned $289 million and will pass the mighty $300 million mark within the next couple of days. It's hard to envision a scenario where Toy Story 3 does not beat Alice in Wonderland's total of $334 million to become the biggest grosser of 2010 releases, and the only movies that have a chance to challenge it are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (and it would have to show a significant increase over Half-Blood Prince's $300 million to do so) or something odd, like December's big 3-D effects extravaganza Tron (which is a sequel to a cult classic more than anything). If we're talking about money earned in 2010, though, it's not going to approach Avatar, which just kept earning and earning and earning.

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