Once described as a future Steven Spielberg, Indian-American director Manoj Night Shyamalan has in recent years become a whipping boy of US film critics.
His latest film, The Last Airbender, was not spared the rod, but the 39-year-old Shyamalan can take some comfort from the fact that its performance at the box office has far exceeded expectations and given the film one of the best openings for his projects so far.
By the end of the 4th of July holiday weekend on Monday, The Last Airbender had raked in over $70 million in the US, placing second only to the phenomenon of the Twilight franchise, with its latest installment, Eclipse, ruling the box office.
In his analysis of The Last Airbender's success, Gitesh Pandya, of Box Office Guru, commented that the film "with a reported production cost of $150 million, has been met with the worst reviews of the filmmaker's career, but the target audience of young males came out on opening weekend anyway for the special effects and the franchise's brand name.
A late-in-the-game upgrade to 3D added to the ticket prices too. Despite what should be large declines in the days and weeks ahead, market share leader Paramount should still score its fifth $100 million plus grosser of 2010."
In its opening week, Airbender has grossed more than Shyamalan's last two films, The Happening in 2008 and Lady in the Water in 2006, did during their entire runs.