Twilight: Eclipse

It’s come to this.  After all of seven months of anticipation (longer if you’re a Twihard), the latest and greatest entry into the Twilight Saga is upon us.  With Eclipse, Summit Entertainment is anticipating their biggest film to date, and they more than likely will have just that.  It won’t be without competition, though, as we also have PIXAR and Toy Story 3 still rumbling along in its third weekend out and M. Night Shyamalan taking on a brand with The Last Airbender.  It could get ugly.  It’s going to get ugly.

BIG HITTERS

The most important newbie this week is the latest film from M. Night.  That’s right.  All you glittery undead lovers are going to have stand silently a moment for a true auteur.  At least he once was.  Shyamalan’s good will has been waning for a number of years, some would say as far back as 2002 and Signs.  That was his last smash hit, the last film that gave him any credit in the marketing game.

Since then, it’s been a downhill run in regards to box office receipts and many would say in terms of the quality of his work.  The Village opened to $50 million in 2004, but it quickly lost steam and ended up with $114.1 million domestically.  Lady in the Water‘s $18-million opening was considered a huge disappointment and 2006’s The Happening didn’t favor much better.  The idea of an R-rated Shyamalan film helped push it to a $30.5-million opening weekend, but its longevity went out as soon as Wahlberg started talking to a plastic tree.

With The Last Airbender, we are once again seeing something from Shyamalan we haven’t seen before.  He is directing a film that has a brand recognition all on its own.  The Avatar cartoon series is quite popular, and the Nickelodeon brand has had reasonable success in previous years.  Lemony Snicket and the first Rugrats film are the only example of Nickelodeon films getting past the $100-million mark, but The Last Airbender brand seems poised to topple them outright.

It is going to be interesting to see if the black cloud seemingly hanging over Shyamalan’s head will have any effect on the film’s success.  Early buzz isn’t good, but that might not have much bearing on kids of the series who just want to see it turned live action.  The fact that they had to change the name from Avatar to The Last Airbender doesn’t seem to be much of a factor, as fans of the series seem to know what they’re getting here.  In the end, it seems likely The Last Airbender will open stronger than Shyamalan’s average, but don’t expect it to have the same impact as something like Signs.

If you want to see the creepy kid with the tattooed head blowing out candles and sinking ships, check out the trailer for The Last Airbender right here:

Something else called The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is coming out this weekend.  It has vampires.  Evidently, sunlight doesn’t kill them.  They don’t HAVE to drink human blood either.  The big-ass wolves are kind of cool.  Taylor Lautner attempts the killer ‘stache and no shirt look.  Neil Miller reviewed it.  He gave it a C+.  It’s going to make a ton of dough regardless.

See the Eclipse trailer right here.   Or don’t.  You’ll be better off:

Okay, you want analysis?  Fine.  When New Moon came out in November, it had the biggest opening day gross in history.  $72.7 million on one Friday.  That equated to less than $300 million in total, domestic box office.  Which tells us the die hard Twilight fans were either smartening up to how awful these films are (not likely) or they all saw them once and went back to reading the books.  Either way, it doesn’t bode too well for the long-run take Eclipse is bound to have.

Opening on a record number of screens (4416, to be exact, 36 more than when Iron Man 2 broke the same record in May), Eclipse could have the same type of impact New Moon had.  Negative reviews won’t be a factor, but the massive onslaught of people seeing it Wednesday and Thursday might take a rather large number away from its Friday to Sunday intake.  Don’t expect the newest film to come close to the $142.8-million opening weekend the first film had.  Of course, you can never underestimate the power of fan-dom or of the gravitational pull Lautner’s bare abs seem to have.

As it stands, I think I’m going to the play the realistic yet hopeful numbers and put Eclipse‘s opening at less than $100 million.  That’s just for the weekend, mind you.  This thing is likely to pull in those exact same numbers in its first two days bringing its Wednesday to Sunday numbers close to the $200-million mark.  The record for fastest to $200 million is tied between The Dark Knight and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, so don’t expect that record to fall.

FAMILIARITIES

With only two weekends in the top spot, something that has become the norm for Pixar films (only Toy Story and Toy Story 2 made it three weekends at #1), Toy Story 3 still seems to be making its way up through the ranks.  It only needs $26 million more to be in the top three films for the studio alongside Finding Nemo and Up.  It’s sure to do just that before the weekend is out.  The presence of another family-friendly film in theaters this week doesn’t seem likely to make Toy Story 3‘s third weekend drop-off any higher than it would have been.  This is especially the case when comparing it to The Last Airbender, which isn’t coming anywhere close to Pixar’s numbers.

Adam Sandler’s second weekend out with the guys is probably going to have a higher than average drop.  Most of Sandler’s films have second weekend drop-offs around the 50-60% rate.  No one else present in the film nor any good buzz that might be trampled under the weight of all the negative reviews are going to make that drop any smaller.  Grown Ups will likely break even in domestic take.

The same won’t be said for Knight and Day, which boasts a $117-million budget.  It’s not going to break $100 domestically.  However, Tom Cruise films generally do much better in foreign ticket sales than those found in US, so, worldwide, Knight and Day might find its way into the black.

LITTLE OPENERS

The biggest film to hit limited release this weekend is Love Ranch.  Directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci (Who knew he was back out of retirement?) it seems like a Casino-style look at a Nevada-based brothel.  It opens in 11 markets around the country.

Check out how Joe Pesci looks after all these years in this trailer for Love Ranch:

Also opening limited is Great Directors, a talking-head documentary with noted directors like David Lynch, Bernardo Bertolucci, Richard Linklater, John Sayles, and more telling us about their personal experiences in the business.  It finds its way into New York theaters this weekend.

For just at ouch of David Lynch lucidity, check out this trailer for Great Directors:

The only, other film getting limited release this weekend is the Bollywood rom-com I Hate Luv Storys. Specific markets were not given.

Here’s how the top 10 is shaping up this weekend:

  1. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – $96.8m NEW
  2. The Last Airbender – $45.8m NEW
  3. Toy Story 3 – $30.3m (-48.8%)
  4. Grown Ups – $18.7m (-53.6%)
  5. Knight and Day – $11.5m (-42.5%)
  6. The Karate Kid – $8.5m (-45.1%)
  7. The A-Team – $3m (-51.4%)
  8. Get Him to the Greek – $1.5m (-50%)
  9. Shrek Forever After – $1.5m (-49.3%)
  10. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – $1m (-61.1%)

Aided by the mass of teens driven to get their Twilight fix, this weekend’s top ten seem poised to pull in $218.6 million.  If this happens, or anything higher, it would be the second highest weekend tally for 2010 thus far.  The highest weekend of the year came in February with the barrage of Valentine’s Day, Percy Jackson, and The Wolfman hitting theaters.  With these numbers, this weekend would have a 41.8% increase over last weekend’s $154.1 million and a slightly higher increase over the same weekend last year.  At that time, neither Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs nor Public Enemies could pull Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen off its 4th of July perch, but all three had solid weekends.

It is going to be interesting to see just how much Eclipse makes in its first, two days.  Coming strong out of the Wednesday gate could give it the priming it needs to beat the weekend record New Moon set in November.  It doesn’t seem likely, but, as I said, you can never underestimate the power of its fans.  They are sure to be out in packs, slight pun intended, and, if they agree it is the best in the series as some are already claiming, it will likely be the Twilight film to break $300 million.

We’ll be back on Sunday to go over the weekend numbers.

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