From the woods of Forks, Washington, to the executive suites of Summit Entertainment, all involved in [movie id="420622"]"Eclipse"[/movie] have to be applauding their efforts on the third installment of the "Twilight" franchise. The film opened to the largest six-day haul of any movie this year — $175.3 million — after getting a jump on the Fourth of July weekend with a Wednesday release.
Yet that applause is surely tempered somewhat, as "Eclipse" failed to out-gross "New Moon," its series predecessor, which opened last fall with $178.9 million in box-office receipts over six days. While there can be no exact comparisons between the initial performances of each film, since "New Moon" opened on Friday, all eyes are going to focus on the ultimate question: Will "Eclipse" defeat "New Moon" at the box office?
"It has a real shot at beating 'New Moon,' and that's after 'New Moon' set the bar so high," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com's box-office division. " 'Twilight' fever is so intense that it burns bright at the front, and then it inevitably slows down. But the movie has good word of mouth, and it should hang in there."
"New Moon" finished up its theatrical run with $296.6 million, and as Box Office Mojo points out, 48 percent of that total came on its opening weekend, making it the most front-loaded blockbuster ever. What that means is Twilighters hit theaters early — and, in many cases, often — and "New Moon" simply couldn't sustain its audience enough to crack the upper echelon of all-time top-grossing flicks (it dropped a staggering 70 percent in its second weekend). Similarly, fans came out in droves for "Eclipse," and it remains to be seen if the film can avoid such a precipitous second-weekend fall.
Here's where the movie's summer release date and IMAX screenings come into play. Unlike "New Moon," "Eclipse" opened on 193 IMAX theaters, raking in nearly $9 million in premium ticket prices, according to The Hollywood Reporter. What's more, Summit is counting on stronger weekday grosses for "Eclipse" than for "New Moon," which opened while the school year was still in full swing. If "Eclipse" can outperform "New Moon" from Monday to Friday, it could be well-positioned to top the $300 million threshold.
"Summer was a great idea, as the target audience is more available, plus more males are coming out than before," said Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru. "Expectations were sky-high, and I'd say it met them. Next weekend's drop will be large, but midweek sales will be solid."
Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that "Eclipse" opened just seven months after "New Moon," and according to Box Office Mojo, "No franchise on record has gone unscathed by such a short window." Perhaps until now. And a lot of the credit could be due to the film's target audience of women, who are often overlooked by studios during a season devoted to explosion-heavy blockbusters.
"It should not be lost on us that this is female-driven and it's not just the boys of summer that keep the box office running," said Dergarabedian, noting that the opening weekend audience was 65 percent female. "It's also the girls, and they've come out in support of 'Eclipse' in droves."
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