Weekend Report: 'Eclipse' Swoons But Sweeps Up Over Independence Weekend
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse didn't live up to its name in relation to its predecessor but it delivered a massive start in its own right. Throw in a sizable debut for The Last Airbender, and Independence Day weekend was capped by the initial bursts of two fan-driven pictures. The weekend's overall gross was up 16 percent over last year when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs were on top, but attendance was nothing special.

Showing at a record 4,468 locations (but far from a record screen count), Eclipse drew $64.8 million or less over the three-day weekend than it did on its first day. That ranked as the fourth highest-grossing Independence Day opening weekend ever, behind Spider-Man 2's $88.2 million, Transformers' $70.5 million and War of the Worlds' $64.9 million. The top weekends for this holiday tend to be muted mostly due to the movies burning off some demand with weekday debuts, and Eclipse was no different, giving it the appearance of paling in comparison to The Twilight Saga: New Moon's $142.8 million first weekend and even the first Twilight's $69.6 million.

For the four-day weekend, Eclipse came in at $83.6 million, trailing Spider-Man 2's $115.8 million. In six days, Eclipse has pulled in $176.4 million, ranking as the seventh highest-grossing six-day start ever, falling short of New Moon's $178.9 million but nearly doubling Twilight's $88.1 million. Spider-Man 2, which also opened on Wednesday, June 30, back in 2004, made $180.2 million in its first six days or the equivalent of over $230 million adjusted for ticket price inflation, and it had a far less front-loaded pattern than Eclipse, which generated 39 percent of that $176.4 million on its first day alone.

New Moon was the most front-loaded blockbuster of all time, grossing 48 percent of its $296.6 million final tally on its first weekend alone, so Eclipse has merely followed in its footsteps. After Twilight laid the groundwork, the franchise seemingly reached full saturation with New Moon, leaving few left for Eclipse to touch. Typically, after the peak audience sampling (usually with the first or second movie), it's a matter of retention for later sequels, not growth.

Eclipse opened only seven months after New Moon, and no franchise on record has gone unscathed by such a short window. If Eclipse ultimately retains 75 percent or more of New Moon's audience (which it should easily do), it will be a relatively more successful sequel than the third movies in The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean and Back to the Future series. Distributor Summit Entertainment relied on the rabidity of Twilight fans, those fans' fondness for Stephenie Meyer's third book and the promise of an action-packed climax to overcome the short wait and moviegoers' mixed reaction to New Moon.

Summit's weekend exit polling indicatetd that 65 percent of the audience was female, and 55 percent was 21 years of age and older. That's more male and older than New Moon, which was 80 percent female and 50 percent under 21, but New Moon's first weekend included its opening day, when the series' young female devotees are in maximum force.

The Last Airbender harnessed $40.3 million at 3,169 locations over the three-day weekend. With Monday, its four-day weekend was $51.8 milion, bringing its five-day start to $69.3 million. That stood as writer-director M. Night Shyamlan's third highest-grossing opening behind Signs and The Village. The adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender apparently had a significant built-in fanbase, because the picture's marketing did little to capture the uninitiated, besides showing off the movie's fantastical action and special effects.

Though attendance wasn't as high as Pokemon: The First Movie's debut, The Last Airbender has out-grossed the entire run of The Forbidden Kingdom (after out-gunning Dragonball Evolution on its first day alone), and its start out-paced Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time by a wide margin. 54 percent of Airbender's gross came from 3D presentations at 1,606 locations. Distributor Paramount Pictures' research showed that half the audience was parents and their children 17 years old and younger.

For more Eclipse and Last Airbender analysis, click here to read the Weekend Briefing.

When Independence Day lands on a Sunday, it warps the weekend, causing severe drop-offs for holdovers. With that in mind, Toy Story 3's 49 percent slip to $30.3 million was not alarming. On Monday, its 18th day, its total crossed the $300 million mark, tying Shrek 2 as the fastest animated movie to reach that milestone.

Grown Ups continued to behave like an ordinary Adam Sandler comedy, down 53 percent to $19 million. With a fine $84.6 million in eleven days, it's tracking close to Sandler's last late June release Click, although it trails significantly in attendance.

Knight & Day didn't pick up speed nor did it crash in its second weekend, declining 48 percent to $10.4 million. With $49.5 million in 13 days, it finally reached what Tom Cruise's last summer action spectacle, Mission: Impossible III, did in three days.

Meanwhile, The Karate Kid crossed the $150 million mark on its 24th day. For the weekend, it was off 49 percent to $8 million.

Note: This story was updated on Monday with four-day weekend estimates and again on Tuesday with actual grosses.

Related Stories

This Weekend in Box Office History

Weekend Briefing: 'Eclipse' Rises with Record Release, Midnight Launch

Weekend Report: 'New Moon' Opens with Deafening HowlWeekend Report: Box Office Enters 'Twilight' Zone

Last Weekend

'Toy Story 3' Charms Again, Sandler Doesn't Grow, Cruise Capsizes

This Timeframe in Past Years

• 2009 - 'Transformers' Fends Off 'Ice Age' in Photo Finish

• 2008 - 'Hancock' Soars

• 2007 - Moviegoers Spark to 'Transformers'

• 2006 - 'Superman' Solid If Unspectacular

• 2005 - 'War of the Worlds' Booms on Independence Day Weekend

Related Charts

Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time Independence Day Opening Weekends

• All Time 5-day Openings