Vamp saga take tops $82 million over holiday frame

Femme auds took a massive bite of the Fourth of July B.O., as Summit’s vampire saga “Eclipse” grossed an estimated domestic four-day total of $82.5 million at 4,468 locations, bringing its cume to $175.3 million.

The frame’s other fresh offering, Paramount’s 3D tentpole “The Last Airbender” benefited from a successful counterprogramming bid, playing best with males, for an estimated $53.2 million over the long weekend at 3,169 engagements. Pic’s overall domestic total stands at $70.5 million.

Both wide releases brought in healthy returns during the four-day frame, especially given the pair’s front-loaded midweek launches; “Eclipse” bowed Wednesday, while “Airbender” followed a day later.

Overall, the domestic B.O. was up a healthy 18% compared to last year’s holiday frame.

“Eclipse” was also tops overseas, with three-day estimates reaching $104.6 million in 42 territories, including major markets like Spain, Italy and Australia. In the U.K., the third in the “Twilight” seriesearned a record-setting $5.7 million from Saturday previews, with Sunday’s screenings added to a total of $9.5 million. Pic will launch wide there next week.

Blighty auds also boosted international weekend revenues for Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s 3D toon “Shrek Forever After,” which opened to $13.1 million, including $4.6 million in previews.

“Shrek” expanded to nine territories this weekend, including the U.K., after launching day and date nearly a month ago, bringing its current count to 30 markets. Par decided to hold the toon in key European markets to benefit from summer vacations and avoid bumping into the World Cup. “Shrek” added an estimated $41 million to its total $135.5 million internationally.

Fox Searchlight posted strong domestic figures for “Cyrus,” which scored a four-day estimate of $1 million in its third frame. Pic, toplining John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill, expanded to 77 locations this weekend for a per-screen average of $13,234 and a cume of $1.7 million.

Typically, the Fourth of July itself sees a considerable slowdown at the box office, and with the holiday falling on a Sunday this year, early bows were planned for “Eclipse” and “Airbender” to give both pics a running start into the long weekend. Last year, July 4 fell on a Saturday, meaning most moviegoers still worked on Monday. Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” topped that frame, with a four-day tally of $48.7 million in its second outing.

Back in 2004, Sony debuted “Spider-Man 2″ during the same holiday weekend as “Eclipse.” “Spider-Man 2″ tallied $115.8 million over its four-day holiday frame, but came in just slightly above “Eclipse” overall, with “Spider-Man 2″ earning $180.1 million during its first six days of release. “Eclipse” benefited more from strong midweek attendance, which likely diffused profits across the opening week.

“Historically, those early screenings do have an impact on the coming weekend, and with this film we saw it coming,” said Summit’s prexy of domestic distribution Richie Fay. “When you have a franchise title like this, you have a very impulsive audience that tends to first see the film either on midnight or opening day.”

“Eclipse” earned a record-breaking $30 million from Tuesday midnight screenings, surpassing the $26.3 million benchmark set last year by franchise predecessor “New Moon.” Domestic totals for “Eclipse” reached a massive $92.8 million going into the weekend.

Large-screen exhib Imax contributed an estimated $9 million of the film’s weekend gross on 193 U.S. runs.

Par’s “Airbender” also rose to lofty heights in its first day of wide release, bowing to $16.3 million, the third-best opening day for director M. Night Shyamalan. Helmer’s “Signs” opened with $20.9 million in 2002, followed by $20.4 million for “The Village” in 2004; both pics launched on a Friday.

As expected, “Eclipse” played best with female auds (65%), while “Airbender” benefited from a relatively even split between men and women. Both films saw higher turnouts among older auds, with 55% of moviegoers aged over 25.

“With movies that are exciting to a broad range of audiences, the weekend really had the potential to become a healthy five- or six-day play period,” said Par vice chairman Rob Moore. “The key, in terms of attendance, is having a group of people who are excited about a movie that is for them,” he said, referring to “Airbender’s” fanbase.

“Eclipse” scored an A CinemaScore rating that may help broaden appeal beyond the films’ core female demo; while “Airbender,” which received a C rating, played better among families.

Based on the anime TV series, “Airbender” reps a potential franchise starter for Par and opened neck-and-neck with Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” inaugural pic. That film bowed Wednesday, following the Fourth of July frame in 2003, with a five-day total of $70.6 million. Still, “Airbender” benefited from higher 3D ticket prices, with 54% of its weekend gross coming from 51% of the pic’s total location count.

The frame’s other major 3D player, Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” earned 53% of its $42.2 million four-day total from 3D-equipped runs. In its third frame, the toon totaled $30.2 million through Sunday, down a moderate 49% compared to last weekend’s three-day gross. Domestic cume for “Toy 3″ stands at $301.1 million, the second-highest grossing title for Pixar behind “Finding Nemo” ($339.7 million).

Last weekend’s wide entries, “Grown Ups” and “Knight and Day,” held steady in their soph seshes, with $26.5 million and $14 million, respectively. “Grown Ups” dropped 53%, cuming $85.1 million for Sony; while 20th Century Fox’s “Knight and Day” totaled $49.3 million, down 48%.

Solid takes for both adult-skewing pics repped a sizeable feat, considering that “Eclipse” and “Airbender” also played best among older demos.

In limited release, E1 Entertainment’s “Love Ranch,” starring Helen Mirren and directed by the thesp’s husband, Taylor Hackford, grossed an estimated $60,718 at 11 locations for a modest per-screen average of $5,520.

Meanwhile, another love-titled specialty pic, Magnolia’s Tilda Swinton starrer “I Am Love,” expanded to 82 runs in its third frame, up 55 from last weekend. Pic grossed an estimated $625,000 over the long weekend, averaging $7,622 per screen.

Falling behind “Eclipse” and “Shrek” on the international front, “Toy 3″ added $25.5 million from 34 markets to its overseas cume of $153.2 million. “Toy 3″ debuted in only two markets — New Zealand and Turkey — where it grossed a collective $1 million. Worldwide figures for the toon now stand at $454.3 million, to become Disney’s 11th-highest toon grosser, behind “Cars” ($461.9 million) in 2006.

Universal’s Ridley Scott-directed “Robin Hood” surpassed the $200 million benchmark internationally. Pic grossed an additional $1.3 million in its eighth frame, with top markets the U.K. and France totaling $22.3 million and $16.6 million, respectively. The next and last major territory to get the film is Japan slated for a December release.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more