Transformers turns into box office behemoth
Morphing robots series’ fourth installment scores US$100-million debut
LOS ANGELES — The fourth installment in filmmaker Michael Bay’s morphing robots series earned US$100 million in North America during its opening weekend, making it the biggest debut for a movie this year, according to studio estimates yesterday. The Paramount blockbuster outperformed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its US$95 million inauguration in April.
Age of Extinction also earned US$201.3 million from 37 international territories, specifically making US$90 million in China, where it was partially filmed and co-produced by partners like the state-owned China Film Group and the China Movie Channel.
“With almost half of the international total coming from China, it shows how important that marketplace is to the worldwide box office,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.
“This film has really capitalized on all fronts.”
Age of Extinction stars Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz as a human father-daughter duo who aid the shape-shifting robots from the Hasbro toy franchise.
Besides the addition of a new human crew, the sequel also introduces the popular Transformers characters based on the likenesses of dinosaurs.
“I think putting Mark Wahlberg front and centre accomplished what we wanted to do, and that’s re-energize the franchise,” Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said. “He appeals to audiences, both critically and as an action star.”
The series’ three previous installments, starring Shia LeBeouf, generated nearly US$2.7 billion in worldwide sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
Age of Extinction topped the previous entry in the series, Dark of the Moon, which took in US$97.9 million during its opening weekend in 2011, but failed to eclipse the US$108.9 million debut of the second film, Revenge of the Fallen.
The first three Transformers films starred Shia LaBeouf as a teenager who befriends hulking alien robots Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Bumblebee. The original 2007 film made US$70.5 million and went on to domestically gross US$319.2 million.
Age of Extinction was distantly followed at the North American box office by a trio of sophomore efforts: 22 Jump Street, starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, in second place with US$15.4 million; How To Train Your Dragon 2 in third place with US$13.1 million; and Think Like a Man Too, a comedy starring Kevin Hart based on TV personality Steve Harvey’s book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, was fourth with US$10.4 million.
Maleficent, Walt Disney Co’s revision of its 1959 movie Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie as a spell-casting evil fairy, rounded out the top five with US$8.2 million and has totalled more than US$200 million since opening on May 30.
“The Transformers movies are known for being released around the Fourth of July, so this really ensures the film will have a strong second weekend,” said Dergarabedian.
“The only movie opening ahead of next weekend in wide release is the Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy and that will be counterprogramming to Transformers.”
“It’s just a spectacular result,” said Don Harris, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount.
As for the film taking in more than US$200 million overseas, Harris sees it as an indication of “what a beloved franchise this is worldwide,” crediting director Michael Bay who helmed all four instalments.
Made for more than US$200 million, the film pits Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and other Autobots against new villains. It met industry projections for its opening weekend.
The nearly three-hour movie garnered mostly poor reviews, with only 17 percent of 121 critics giving it a “fresh” rating, according to the site Rotten Tomatoes, but ticket buyers gave the film an A- rating according to polling service CinemaScore.
Prior to the opening of Transformers, summer ticket sales had lagged last year by 15 percent, according to the box office tracking site Rentrak, when blockbusters such as Iron Man 3, Monsters University, and Fast & Furious 6 drove ticket sales.