Weekend Box Office: Live Free or Twi-Hard

If this weekend’s box office numbers prove anything, teenagers love to go to the movies. Between the weekend gross and the extended openings (both ‘The Last Airbender’ and ‘Twilight’ opened BEFORE Friday), a whole bunch of money was spent at the multiplexes this weekend. Much of it was thrown at the adolescent angst of ‘Twilight,’ the adapted-from-a-Nickelodeon-series ‘The Last Airbender,’ and the adults-acting-like-children epic ‘Grown Ups.’

Surprising to precisely no one, the third entry in the beloved ‘Twilight’ saga, David Slade’s dull and dreary ‘Eclipse,’ made an obscene amount of money. It grossed $82.5 million over the weekend, to take the #1 position. With the combined midnight sales and additional days, it’s earned a whopping $175.2 million over its six days in wide release. While it failed to loop the record-breaking ‘Spider-Man 2′ July 4th holiday haul in 2004, it still made a ridiculously huge sum. (In its first day of wide release, the movie recouped its entire production budget.) Summit is probably even more sure they made the right decision to split up the fourth book into two separate movies (a la Warner Bros’ approaching for the final ‘Harry Potter’ entries). There’s still so much money to be made!

In the second place spot was M. Night Shyamalan’s atrociously horrible ‘The Last Airbender,’ a movie made for 13-year-old boys and fully grown idiots. The critical contempt for this ponderous dud was loud and proud. (The opening line of Roger Ebert’s half-star review: “The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented.”) But that didn’t seem to keep moviegoers away. Is this proof that movie critics like yours truly don’t matter? Or just evidence that it was extremely hot outside and people wanted a cool place to chill for a couple of hours? Discuss! The movie made $53.1 million over the weekend and $70.5 million over the extended holiday period, which is M. Night’s best opening since ‘The Village.’ When you remember that his last two movies were ‘Lady in the Water‘ and ‘The Happening,’ that becomes a less distinguished accomplishment. While this is a pretty good number, it remains to be seen if it’s enough to keep the franchise going. (Shyamalan recently stated he’s already finished the first draft of the second movie’s script.) We’ll see if that number drops as drastically as I expect it to next weekend. And let’s not forget the built-in inflation of the 3-D racket. I didn’t see ‘Last Airbender’ in 3-D, but I’ve heard that it’s just as incomprehensibly muddy as ‘Clash of the Titans’. Ick.

Toy Story 3‘ came in third place with another $42.2 million over the weekend. This allows its total gross to squeak (like Wheezy) past the $300 million mark. It looks on target to eclipse the $340 million ‘Finding Nemo’ to become the highest grossing Pixar movie ever. When ‘Nemo’ was released, it was the largest grossing animated film of all time. That number was bested by one of the ‘Shrek’ sequels not-too-soon afterwards. We’ll see what kind of number ‘Toy Story 3’ ends up with, but it could be the all-time animated champ.

The rest of the Top 10 list looks a lot like last week’s. Virtually every major breadwinner (‘Grown Ups,’ ‘Knight and Day,’ ‘The Karate Kid,’ ‘The A-Team,’ ‘Get Him to the Greek,’ and ‘Shrek Forever After‘) slipped down two places to accommodate the twin titans of ‘Twilight’ and ‘Last Airbender.’

But! Something actually worth reporting! A teeny-tiny indie has broken through to the Top 10! ‘Cyrus,’ the microscopic comedy starring Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly in a never-ending cavalcade of awkward situations, broke through with a robust $1 million. As it gains more and more screens each week, one day it may even play at your local megaplex, next to the Hollywood slop that gets churned out. I say that you should take the risk, see ‘Cyrus,’ and thank me in the morning.

Next weekend, a whole bunch of interesting smaller films come out, along with another couple of biggies. ‘Despicable Me’ is a modestly budgeted 3-D animated film produced by an international team. ‘Predators’ is the newest entry in Fox’s film franchise that began with John McTiernan’s masterpiece ‘Predator‘ way back in 1987, survived the minor folly of 1990’s ‘Predator 2‘ and has since limped along in two godawful ‘Alien vs. Predator‘ films (2004 and 2007). I haven’t seen this newest predatory tale yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Fourth of July Fireworks:

01 ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ (Summit) – $82.5 million

02 ‘The Last Airbender’ (Paramount) – $53.1 million

03 ‘Toy Story 3’ (Disney/Pixar) – $42.2 million

04 ‘Grown Ups’ (Sony) – $26.5 million

05 ‘Knight and Day’ (F0x) – $14 million

06 ‘The Karate Kid’ (Sony) – $11.5 million

07 ‘The A-Team’ (Fox) – $4.2 million

08 ‘Get Him to the Greek’ (Universal) – $1.6 million


  1. Jane Morgan

    Critics only matter for art films, most of which are too small for word of mouth to build.

    Audiences can choose Hollywood brainbusters on their own, based on the excess of marketing.

    Mass market audiences, aka casual audiences, make choices about what to watch using factors not related to nutrition. Genre is a big key.

    The most important reviews are home video ones that spotlight killer video transfers and sexy art films, to help with the rent/buy decision.

  2. I think critics can make a difference for some people. After all, ‘Airbender’ could have opened a lot bigger than $53 mil. I’m sure plenty of people stayed away based on reviews.

    I’m more of a ‘see if I agree’ kind of guy though. I tend not to read reviews as a deciding factor, but as a sort of a post-movie conversation.

    • I cant agree with Airbender, Airbender came out the same weekend that Eclipse did, THAT IMO is the only reason it didnt do any better, if nothing else was out I could have easily seen it pull in more money, ANYTHING released with a Twilight film wont do as well as it could have, but 70+ Million for a fantasy flick like this on the same weekend that a Twilight movie came out? thats some big points if you ask me, but most of the people I know dont bother reading any reviews on the movies they want to see, I’m usually the one passing that information to others, they could honestly care less…..me I just read them as I’m into peoples opinions and I’m a huge movie fanatic, but almost never do they sway my opinion of seeing something, on occasion they do and probably will, but usually I dont bother with what someone else says 😉

    • Jane Morgan

      Reviews are intellectual. Movies are emotional. It’s like Bad Sex Theory. Sometimes bad sex is better than no sex, no matter what your friends say.

      I bet that less than 100,000 people alter their behavior because of reviews. Critics can’t move box office more than $1-2 million either way. Human motivation is far too complex. I bet the weather affects box office more than critics.

      • I doubt many critics set about to influence box office results. If they feel passionately about a movie one way or the other, they may try to persuade people to give it a chance, or warn them from wasting their time. But it’s rarely the case that a critic is egomaniacal enough to think he/she holds the fate of a multi-million dollar production in his/her hands. The main purpose of a movie review is to have a discussion about the merits of that film.

        I also have to point out that you commented on another post that you let reviews sway you from buying a video game this week. 🙂

        • Jane Morgan

          That’s true. I am swayed by video game reviews, but am not affected by movie reviews. I was thinking about why that is. Are games different?

          Movies are pure art. Games are half art, half technology. I read video game reviews like I would cell phone reviews, or graphics card reviews. To learn if the hardware/software is well engineered. Maybe game reviews are more helpful, because they have less “opinion.”

          • I think the difference is because games take at least four times as long to enjoy and cost significantly more than a movie. I’ll sit through a bad movie, but I won’t play through a bad game.

            As far as games being a technology review, I’m not sure I get that. Maybe back in the day, but now the only time graphics or framerate get mentioned is when they’re bad.

            Some sites pretend to have objective game reviews, but I just don’t see how that’s possible.

  3. Jane Morgan

    Video game reviews, I look for details about graphics, framerate, loading times, controls, length of the single player campaign. Couch co-op. Tech stuff. To nudge me to a decision.

    I already know the genres and developers I like. I just have to figure out the buy/rent/skip. I only play 25 games per year. I only buy games that give me 30+ hours fun. I only rent games in my genres that metacritic over 80. That’s my filter. I play it safe. HD only.

    Movies are 95% disposable. I watch 150 movies a year. Most movies are of average quality, single use only. What does it matter if a movie scores a 90/70/50/30/10 on its artistry. I only watch movies on blu-ray via netflix. Every movie costs $1 and 2 hours. I can see whatever I want, go in blind, be my own film critic.

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