And so it goes for the 4th of July weekend, two heavy hitters deliver fireworks to the masses, even if those fireworks aren’t on a milestone level of awesomeness. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Last Airbender had respectable openings even if neither of them came close to breaking any records this weekend. The much beloved Toy Story 3 held strong in its third weekend out, and a big surprise came in the form of the latest indie comedy from the Duplass brothers. All in all, another fun-filled weekend at the movie theater.

When Eclipse hit on Wednesday with $68.5 million, it seemed evident it was bounding its way toward the record books. It set the record for widest release and for opening day on a Wednesday, but then something changed. Like a prize fighter with hard hitting power but little stamina, it gassed. Each day since its opening Eclipse hasn’t even been able to make half of what it made on Wednesday. In fact, the only time it went up from day-to-day was between Thursday and Friday. Nonetheless, it still made loads of money throughout the weekend, easily came out on top of the heap and is already well into the financial black for Summit Entertainment. It reportedly cost $68 million, so they already have a major success on their hands.

This slow-down factor though, seems to be familiar territory for the Twilight films. New Moon still holds the opening day record of $72.7 million, but even it failed to get past the $300-million mark. Claims that Eclipse is the best of the series won’t get it as high as New Moon in the long run. Expect its final domestic tally to be somewhere in the $250-million range.

A film that isn’t claiming any critical success is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan. The Last Airbender, awful reviews and all, still managed an expectedly decent opening. Released on Thursday, it has the biggest four-day haul for a Shyamalan film since 2002’s Signs, his last smash hit. That film ended up making $227 million in domestic box office, but we shouldn’t expect The Last Airbender to even brush up underneath that. In fact, a big drop-off is expected to hit the film in the coming weeks and it will be lucky enough to get into triple digits domestically. This isn’t exactly a game-changer for Paramount, who is rumored to have spent nearly $300 million on the film. Unless the winds completely change, don’t expect the proposed trilogy of Airbender films to take place either. That would take some serious bending on Shyamalan’s part.

Tthis also comes right after the announcement that Paramount topped the second quarter 2010 in total box office. The studio became the second of the year (after 20th Century Fox) to top $1 billion. This was aided by the $307.5 million Iron Man 2 has made domestically. However, don’t expect the same news to come after the third quarter is over, as Paramount only has Dinner for Schmucks lined up for the remainder of the Summer.

Toy Story 3 continues to rise in total numbers. It hasn’t surpassed $300 million, but that is likely to happen in the next week. As it stands, it is only behind Up and Finding Nemo in the race to become Pixar’s highest grossing film of all-time. It seems fairly evident before the Summer is out, it will be riding high on top of that list as well.

One film that surprised with its weekend take was the indie comedy Cyrus. Fox Searchlight expanded the film’s release from 17 theaters last weekend to 77 this weekend. The film pulled in an average of $10,000 per theater and broke its way into the top ten. This is a huge win for the Duplass brothers, whose previous big box office winner was 2006’s The Puffy Chair, which pulled in $194,000 in domestic receipts. It’s always a great win for independent cinema when it can break its way into the noteworthy charts. It didn’t hurt that films like Shrek Forever After and Prince of Persia had huge drops this weekend. Nonetheless, the box office history books have been written, and this weekend Cyrus is listed right along with some of the biggest films of the year.

Here is how the weekend box office shaped up:

  1. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – $69m NEW $161m since Wednesday
  2. The Last Airbender – $40.6m NEW $57m since Thursday
  3. Toy Story 3 – $30.1m (-49.1%) $289m total
  4. Grown Ups – $18.5m (-54.3%) $77m total
  5. Knight and Day – $10.2m (-49.4%) $45.5m total
  6. The Karate Kid – $8m (-48.5%) $151.5m total
  7. The A-Team – $3m (-51.2%) $69.1m total
  8. Get Him to the Greek – $1.1m (-62.3%) $57.4m total
  9. Shrek Forever After – $.7m (-74.2%) $232.1m total
  10. Cyrus – $.7m (+155.6%) $1.4m total

Thanks to the big openings for Eclipse and The Last Airbender as well as the continued dominance of Toy Story 3, this weekend’s top ten were able to accumulate $181.9 million in total box office receipts. This is an 18% increase over last weekend’s $154.1 million and a 19.5% over the $152.1 million the 4th of July weekend was able to pull in last year. Much of this success comes from the fact that the big winners this weekend were two new films. Toy Story 3 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, last weekend’s and the 4th of July weekend 2009’s number one films, were in their second weeks and both had reasonably high drop-offs. The new films, Grown Ups and Knight and Day last weekend and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Public Enemies last year, had decent openings but nothing earth-shattering.

Expect an interesting weekend to come as poor reviews are sure to drive The Last Airbender down, Eclipse is likely to have the typical drop the other Twilight films have had, and the two new movies aren’t exactly going to be seen as forces of nature. Despicable Me and Predators are both anticipated films for different reasons, but I don’t seen either of them having the same weekend either Eclipse or The Last Airbender had. We’ll be back on Thursday night to go over how we see the weekend shaping up.

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