'Last Airbender' opens to $3 million

Femme fans continue to drive boffo biz at the domestic B.O. for Summit’s latest “Twilight” offering “Eclipse,” but its Wednesday bow fell short of the opening day mark set by “New Moon” in November.

“Eclipse” scored $68.5 million on Wednesday, which includes a record-setting $30 million in midnight grosses, to become the all-time highest-grossing debut on a Wednesday. The midweek bow surpassed the $62 million Wednesday benchmark set last year by Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

By contrast, “Eclipse’s” predecessor, “New Moon” opened on a Friday to $72.7 million. “Eclipse” is the first of the three “Twilight” pics to date to roll out midweek.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s 3D tentpole “The Last Airbender” launched Wednesday during midnight screenings, with $3 million, the most for a nonsequel this summer. Pic launched Thursday at 3,169 engagements, of which 1,606 are 3D-equipped.

Both “Airbender” and “Eclipse” are aimed at younger moviegoers on summer vacation. There’s been speculation that the frenzy surrounding the Wednesday bow for “Eclipse” may put a dent in the turnout over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. But the summer movie-going season, coupled with a record-setting location count, should bode well for the film.

Pic expands today to 4,468 U.S. locations, an industry high that surpasses Par’s “Iron Man 2″ count of 4,390. Large-screen exhib Imax contributes 192 locations to “Eclipse’s” total, with approximately $1 million in midnight runs.

“Eclipse” also scored an overall A CinemaScore rating, which could mean strong repeat business beyond its core demo. “New Moon,” which earned less than “Eclipse” in midnight runs with $26.3 million, had a $142.8 million opening weekend. That film received an A- CinemaScore rating and went on to cume $296.6 million.

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