thelastairbender-movie-aang-poster-550x814UPDATESources tell me that Paramount’s The Last Airbender opened to $16+M Thursday, including the $3 million from its midnight shows. The pic based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series should be on its way to $60M for the 5-day July Fourth Holiday and a shot at 2nd place.

Hard to believe but there’s another movie opening this weekend besides the Twilight Saga’s Eclipse. It’s Paramount’s The Last Airbender 3D from M Night Shyamalan, and I’ve just learned it quietly opened to a solid $3 million in Thursday midnight screenings because of the studio’s counterprogramming strategy. Paramount says that’s the highest midnight gross this summer for a non-sequel. Unfortunately, the studio is stuck with a high price tag of $145M, including the 3D conversion costs of this actioner based on the animated TV series from Nickelodeon called “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and what rival studios are telling me is at least a $50+M marketing campaign. But the movie has been tracking well with males of all ages and kids and now looks to break M Night’s recent drought at the box office. That’s despite horrid reviews — only 6% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, worse than this summer’s biggest bomb Jonah Hex. It should come in 2nd this weekend neck and neck with Disney’s Toy Story 3 but far behind Summit’s Eclipse with between $50M and $60M for the 5-day July 4th holiday thanks to help from higher 3D ticket prices. Remember that Sunday’s theatrical grosses will be way down because that’s when Independence Day falls this year. But The Last Airbender is expected to make most of its money internationally.

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