New "Twilight" film eclipses box office rivals

Sat Jul 3, 2010 2:16pm EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The latest "Twilight" movie sailed past the $100 million mark during its third day at the North American box office, and was forecast to approach a record-breaking $200 million by the end of the U.S. Independence Day holiday weekend, according to estimates issued on Saturday.

"The Twilight Saga: The Eclipse," the eagerly anticipated third installment in the vampire romance series, sold about $121.4 million worth of tickets from Wednesday to Friday, said distributor Summit Entertainment.

For the traditional Friday-Sunday portion, the privately owned studio forecast sales of $80.2 million, and a four-day total of $106.1 million with inclusion of the Monday holiday. That would take its six-day haul to $198.9 million.

The record for an Independence Day release is held by "Spider-Man 2," which earned $180 million in its first six days in 2004, having also opened on a Wednesday.

As for the other films in the "Twilight" series, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" earned $179 million in its first six days during a nonholiday period in November. A year earlier, the six-day haul for the first film, "Twilight," was $88 million.

The actual weekend sales amounts for the new film could vary widely when further estimates are issued on Sunday and Monday. Studios sometimes err on the conservative side when issuing forecasts. Final data will be released on Tuesday.

If initial estimates hold, "Eclipse" would rank No. 3 among all-time six-day openers, behind "The Dark Knight" ($222 million) and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" ($215 million), according to Box Office Mojo.

The film revolves around the romance between teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), as werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) tries to steal her heart away. Critics liked the film more than they did the first two, according to Web site Rotten Tomatoes.

The family film "The Last Airbender" from "Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan was another new release. The two-day total for the Thursday release was $32.95 million, said distributor Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.

After two weeks at No. 1, the Pixar cartoon "Toy Story 3" was expected to slip to No. 3 for the weekend. It earned $10.5 million on Friday -- vs. $28.6 million for "Eclipse" and $16.6 million for "Last Airbender" -- taking its North American total to $269.3 million, said Pixar parent Walt Disney Co.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

 
<p>Cast members Taylor Lautner (L), Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson (R) pose at the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" during the Los Angeles Film Festival at Nokia theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>