'Eclipse' still No. 1 despite drop in daily take
Six-day haul is $175.3 mil; 'Airbender' defies reviews at No. 2No record? No worries.
Vampires still basked in the rockets' red glare during the weekend, as Summit Entertainment threequel "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" rung up a bloody good $82.5 million in domestic boxoffice during the four-day Independence Day frame.
But though "Eclipse" soared to $175.3 million in cumulative boxoffice since unspooling on Wednesday, that was overshadowed by the $178.9 million that franchise predecessor "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" sunk its teeth into during its first six days in release last November.
Also, Sony's "Spider-Man 2" used a Wednesday-through-Monday bow during 2004's July 4th weekend to register $180.1 million during its first six days in the marketplace.
With the latest "Twilight" installment's production costs estimated at a modest $68 million, "Eclipse" already is well into a profitable orbit. But it will be interesting to see how high it can fly after notable drops in daily grosses following fan-fueled sellouts during the pic's first day of performances.
"This has been a great way to spend the Fourth of July weekend, that's for sure," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay enthused. "If there was a surprise, it was how big the first midnight showings were. Quite frankly, we didn't know what to expect with the Wednesday opening."
Elsewhere at the multiplexes, Paramount's 3D family adventure "The Last Airbender" -- a much pricier $150 million production -- posted a $53.2 million weekend, with a $70.5 million cume since its Thursday bow.
Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3" fetched $42.2 million in third place for a $301.1 million cume through 18 days in release.
Sony's ensemble comedy "Grown Ups" fell 53% from its first Friday-Sunday in registering $26.5 million in fourth place during its holiday-stretched sophomore session, with an $85.1 million cume.
Fox's "Knight and Day" slid 48% to ring up $14 million in fifth place on the weekend and $49.3 million through its first 11 days.
Based on an animated Nickelodeon TV series, "Airbender" was burdened by dismal reviews but still managed to open significantly better than expected.
The effects-filled fantasy, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, attracted audiences skewing 55% male, with 55% of patrons under age 25.
"To be at over $70 million is just sensational," Paramount exec vp distribution Don Harris said. "It's a credit to the marketing department and to Night in being able to connect with the fan base."
Playing on a mix of 2D and 3D screens, "Airbender" took in $38 million from the latter premium-priced auditoriums, contributing 54% of the movie's overall boxoffice.
On an industrywide basis, a total $183 million was collected between Friday and Sunday, or 16% more than in last year's three-day Independence Day frame. Through Monday, the top 25 pics took in a total $246 million.
Among notable expansions, Fox Searchlight comedy "Cyrus" added 60 locations for a total 77 to gross $1 million, or an impressive $13,240 per site, with a $1.7 million cume.
IFC Films' documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" added 26 theaters for a total 112 and grossed $448,000, or a sturdy $4,000 per venue, with cume of $1.6 million.
Sony Pictures Classics' period drama "Coco Chanel and Igor Stavinski" added 23 playdates for a total 43 to gross $176,068, or an acceptable $4,094 per engagement, with cume of $583,849.
And National Geographic's Afghanistan War doc "Restrepo" added eight locations for a total 10 in grossing $71,588, or a solid $7,159 per site, with cume of $132,210.
Directed by David Slade ("30 Days of Night"), the "Twilight" threequel featured returning topliners Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kirsten Stewart. Rated PG-13, the vampires-and-werewolves romancer drew audiences comprised 65% of females, with 45% of patrons under age 21%.
Midnight performances contributed an unprecedented $30 million. The witching-hour coin was lumped into a whopping $68 million first-day haul for "Eclipse."
Some 193 high-grossing Imax venues contributed $9 million during the pic's six-day bow.
"New Moon" registered $296.6 million overall domestically. Franchise starter "Twilight" bowed with $69.6 million in November 2008 and took in $192.8 million in total domestic coin.
The final installment in the books-based "Twilight" film series will be split into two movies. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part One" is set to open on Nov. 18, 2011, with "Breaking Dawn, Part Two" expected to unspool the following summer.
Looking ahead, two wide openers hit theaters Friday, one of them targeting the same family audience at "Airbender" -- Universal's 3D animated feature "Despicable Me." Fox's R-rated horror thriller "Predators" should skew older and more male than "Eclipse" and thus will have a more open field in its first frame.