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Posted at 10:51 AM ET, 07/ 5/2010

Weekend box office: 'Eclipse' wins and 'Airbender' surprises

By Jen Chaney

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" was the weekend's No. 1 movie, a ranking that even casual box office trackers easily predicted; despite its high suck factor, "The Last Airbender" had a solid weekend; and "Toy Story 3" is inching closer to overtaking "Iron Man 2's" overall gross. Now, the breakdown on your July Fourth weekend box office.

Don't look so upset, "Eclipse" cast. Your movie's No. 1 at the box office. (Summit)

In its first five days of release since its Wednesday opening, "Eclipse" has earned $161 million, enough to make it the third highest grossing Independence Day weekend release ever, according to Box Office Mojo, but not quite as much as the $164.7 million "New Moon" made in its first five days. As the BBC points out, the total for "Eclipse" also falls shy of the $173 million forecast by Summit, the studio behind the franchise. But considering that the film's production budget came in around $68 million, I have to think Summit is pretty happy with that total, one that will only increase in the coming weeks.

M. Night Shyamalan has to be enjoying the fact that "The Last Airbender" came in second place, making $40 million over the weekend, and $57 million in its first four days of release (it opened Thursday). Pretty good for a movie that was slammed hard by critics and criticized by many core "Airbender" fans for its lack of East Asian actors in key roles. What explains the ticket sales?

The Post's Michael Cavna wonders if the casting controversy actually worked in the movie's favor, increasing the likelihood that some moviegoers would pay up out of curiosity. That's possible. Other factors may have been at play here, including: the very loyal members of the "Airbender" fan base, who probably didn't want to miss this event no matter how rancid the reviews were; the fact that the film was aimed at families, giving Mom and Dad a PG-rated movie option that didn't involve taking the kids to "Toy Story 3" for the fourth time (according to Box Office Mojo, half the audience was made up of parents and children under 17); and the pumped-up cost of those 3D tickets, which accounted for 54 percent of "Airbender's" ticket sales. Suddenly, at least to the studio executives, Shyamalan looks like a genius ... as long as "Airbender" does well enough to make back its production-budget money, plus more. It's still got a little ways to go to do that.

Business for "Toy Story 3" dropped off, but Woody and Buzz still brought in $30.1 million, bringing the film's North American total to $289 million. That makes it the third biggest movie of the year so far, a few mill away from second-place-sitter "Iron Man 2's" $308.2 million total.

"Cyrus" has emerged as one of the summer's notable indie hits. After three weeks in very limited release, it opened a little wider -- and by wider, I mean it's now in about 70 theaters -- and broke into the top 10. The Jonah Hill/John C. Reilly/Marisa Tomei triangular tale earned $770,000, or about $10,000 per screen, on average. Its total now stands at $1.4 million, almost as much as the summer's other indie sleeper favorite, "Winter's Bone." That buzzy and beautifully acted film has earned $1.7 million, also in limited release.

Looking to next week, can "Eclipse" hold on to its No. 1 status? Or will newcomers "Despicable Me" or "Predators" knock it out? Make your prediction in our box office poll.

By Jen Chaney  | July 5, 2010; 10:51 AM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Box Office, Summer Movies  
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I'm happy for most of the Lizards who seem to have the day off, but I'm really bored here at work and wish some of you guys would stop by & entertain me! Please? :)

Posted by: talleyl | July 5, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The "surprising" success of Airbender is in part explained by fan loyalty but is also explained by the simple fact that it doesn't actually "suck." It's a little disappointing, sure, as it was bound to be because so much had to be left out and the remainder rushed through -- but it is actually a really beautiful movie that does a good job staying true to the spirit of its source and to the sensibilities of its under-ten, solidly G core audience -- two tasks the Narnia movies, for instance, had a much harder time with. I just hope they get busy on those sequels!!

Posted by: jdext | July 5, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

And my friends wonder why I hate to go to the movies. I think I'd rather be waterboarded than forced to sit through any of these movies.

However, I did receive "Young Victoria" from Netflix over the weekend, which was fabulous. Highly recommend it to any Lizards who haven't seen it yet.

-Snarky Squirrel

Posted by: 7900rmc | July 5, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I very much enjoy watching Airbender re-runs on TV with my kids. And we all really enjoyed watching the movie.

Sure the reviews were sucky, but so were the reviews of Transformers. And we all know how much that movie rocked.

So when we went to see the movie, we were hoping for another "boy are film critics out of touch" moment. We were not dissappointed.

I, too, am very much looking forward to the next two installments of the series. I'm very pleased to see the success-so-far of the movie and hope that bodes well for Mr. Shyamalan and company.

Posted by: ZZim | July 5, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

There are certain "fandom" movies that will do better on the opening weekend no matter what the reviews are for one simple reason: tickets are sold in advance.

I already have mine to Inception. If they were available, I'd have them to Tron. I'll be very interested to see Airbender's second week. Though if it remains this hot, people may go see it just for the air conditioning.

Posted by: Fabrisse | July 5, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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