LOS ANGELES - “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” has risen to an $82.5 million haul over the long Fourth of July weekend and lifted its total to $175.3 million after just six days, according to studio estimates Monday.
The vampire romance from Summit Entertainment finished at No. 1 over the four-day weekend, despite a steep drop in its daily take after a $68.5 million start last Wednesday, the second biggest opening day ever.
“Movies that pop this big on opening day, it’s virtually impossible to keep up that breakneck pace,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “We’ve seen this with a lot of movies where the first day is their biggest day, then it kind of settles into a more normal pattern.”
Coming in second for the weekend with $53.2 million from Friday to Monday was Paramount’s action fantasy “The Last Airbender,” pushing its total to $70.5 million since opening Thursday. The movie did strong business despite terrible reviews.
“Eclipse” waned after its huge opening day, with Summit lowering projections for the movie through the weekend. On Sunday, the company was expecting a $181 million total for the movie’s first six days, but revenues came in nearly $6 million lower.
Summit overestimated how big an audience “Eclipse” would draw on Sunday, when people were busy with Fourth of July barbecues and fireworks, said Richie Fay, the company’s head of distribution.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection on the movie or ’Twilight’ fatigue at this point,” Fay said.
“Eclipse” earned better reviews than the two previous “Twilight” movies and the fan base has expanded, with males accounting for 35 percent of audiences, compared to just 20 percent for last year’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
“New Moon” took in $142.8 million in its three-day opening weekend last November. That movie debuted on Friday, and the figure includes its record opening day gross of $72.7 million.
For its first six days, “Eclipse” is $3.6 million behind “New Moon,” which had taken in $178.9 million at that point.
“New Moon” went on to gross $296.6 million, a $104 million increase over the total for “Twilight,” the first movie in the franchise.
Adapted from the third of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novels, “Eclipse” continues the love triangle involving a broody teen (Kristen Stewart), her vampire sweetheart (Robert Pattinson) and her werewolf pal (Taylor Lautner).
The fourth and final novel, “Breaking Dawn,” is coming to the big-screen as a two-parter, with the first movie due out in November 2011.
“The Last Airbender” was adapted from the cartoon TV series about a youth whose mystical powers can help unite four warring nations. It was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), who conceived of the movie version as a possible ongoing franchise.
Distributor Paramount is waiting to see how the movie performs in its overseas rollout in coming weeks before deciding whether to proceed with sequels, said Rob Moore, studio vice chairman.
The fact that critics hated “The Last Airbender” did not turn off audiences. Paramount also distributed last summer’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which became a $400 million blockbuster despite bad reviews.
“Obviously, you prefer it when critics like your movie,” said Rob Moore, Paramount vice chairman. “But in the middle of summer, the audience is looking for some fun. Summer moviegoing is about getting away and experiencing something you can’t experience in normal, everyday life. Going into theaters and watching amazing visuals is certainly an exciting thing to do around the Fourth of July.”
In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s acclaimed comedy “Cyrus” took in $1 million and broke into the top-10 playing at just 77 theaters, compared to a record 4,468 for “Eclipse.”