The young, Disney-bred hunk may not be a household name, but Rathbone plays key roles in both of this weekend's new wide-release movies: as vampire drill sergeant Jasper Hale in 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' and as boomerang-wielding warrior Sokka in 'The Last Airbender.' That means he'll be holding down the two top spots on the box office chart and help sell as much as $250 million worth of movie tickets over the extended holiday weekend. Independence Day weekend used to belong to Will Smith. This year it belongs to ... Jackson Rathbone?
The young, Disney-bred hunk may not be a household name, but Rathbone plays key roles in both of this weekend's new wide-release movies: as vampire drill sergeant Jasper Hale in 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' and as boomerang-wielding warrior Sokka in 'The Last Airbender.' That means he'll be holding down the two top spots on the box office chart and help sell as much as $250 million worth of movie tickets over the extended holiday weekend.
'Eclipse' will be the weekend's biggest movie, though how big is anyone's guess. Having gotten a jump on the holiday with its midweek debut, 'Eclipse' has already broken records on its first day, starting with the size of its booking (4,416 venues, the widest release in history) and the biggest Wednesday opening ever ($68.5 million, just shy of the all-time one-day opening set by 'New Moon' (which earned $72.7 million on a Friday). 'Eclipse' also boasts the best Wednesday box office ever (beating 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,' which earned $62 million on a Wednesday last summer) and the single biggest summer day ever (topping the $67.2 million earned one day by 'The Dark Knight' two summers ago).
With numbers like that, there's almost no telling how much the Twi-hards will spend to see 'Eclipse' between Friday and Sunday. Predictions have run anywhere from $75 million to $95 million. Add to that the totals from Wednesday, Thursday, and the holiday Monday, and 'Eclipse' could see a total opening of $200 million.
'The Last Airbender' also got a jump on the weekend with a Thursday opening. It's not expected to do as well, despite having higher ticket prices on screens where it's playing in 3D. The live-action version of the Nickelodeon cartoon fantasy adventure series has a devoted fan base, but that base is divided over the controversial casting of white actors (including Rathbone) in lead roles as characters drawn from Asian and Inuit cultures.
Rathbone and Dev Patel ('Slumdog Millionaire') aside, there's no star power in the cast to draw in the newbies. The biggest name here is that of director M. Night Shyamalan, but this isn't one of his patented twist-ending movies based on his own original ideas, it's just a work for hire -- not that Shyamalan carries the brand strength that he used to. Plus, 'Airbender' has to compete with the still-strong 'Toy Story 3' (which is hogging most of the 3D screens) and 'Eclipse,' which is simply going to suck most of the oxygen out of the multiplex. Opening on 3,169 screens, 'Airbender' is expected to bring in between $34 million and $42 million from Friday to Sunday. Adding the sales from Thursday's opening and the Monday holiday should bring its total debut take to about $50 million.
After its victories last week and the week before, 'Toy Story 3' should finally fall to third place behind the newcomers, though it should lose only about 40 percent of last week's business. Friday to Sunday, it should earn about $35 million, with $43 million total for the four-day holiday weekend. 'Grown Ups' will land in fourth place, dropping about half of last week's sales for a three-day total of $20 million or so and a four-day holiday take of about $25 million. Rounding out the top five will be 'Knight and Day,' which will scrape up another $11 million or so from Friday to Sunday and $14 million for the full holiday weekend.
Top five predictions (four-day totals, Friday to Monday):
1. 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' $105 million
2. 'The Last Airbender,' $47 million
3. 'Toy Story 3,' $43 million
4. 'Grown Ups,' $26 million
5. 'Knight and Day,' $14 million
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