Box Office Guru Wrapup: "Transformers" Stomps on Foes To Capture #1 Spot With $152.5M Opening

Optimus Prime and his robot heroes seized the number one spot at the North American box office with an explosive opening for "Transformers" over the extended Independence Day holiday frame. The Paramount/DreamWorks co-production grossed an estimated $67.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and an amazing $152.5M since its early opening last Monday with 8pm preview shows.

Internationally, the Michael Bay-directed actioner has grossed a stellar $93.6M to date from 29 markets putting the global haul at $246.1M and counting. Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, Anthony Anderson, and newcomer Megan Fox led the cast while executive producer Steven Spielberg's name played prominently in the film's marketing campaign.



"Transformers" played in an ultrawide 4,011 theaters in North America and averaged a scorching $16,854 for the weekend and a stunning $38,021 over the 6.5-day opening week. The PG-13 film began its explosive run on Monday night with $8.8M in ticket sales and followed that with $27.9M on Tuesday, $29.1M on the Wednesday holiday, $19.2M on Thursday, $22.5M on Friday, $25.9M on Saturday, and an estimated $19.2M on Sunday. The Sunday estimate could be conservative as other studios estimate the weekend gross to be closer to $68M or even $69M meaning final numbers could inch up slightly on Monday.



With a production budget of $145M, "Transformers" is one of the least expensive summer tentpoles this year. "Spider-Man 3" and the third "Pirates" saga reportedly cost $250-300M each to produce and next weekend's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" also carries a mighty high pricetag. By comparison, the Autobots flick seems rather inexpensive. The pressure certainly was on Bay after his last film "The Island" cost $125M and grossed a puny $35.8M for DreamWorks two years ago. This time, the studio will be rewarded as "Transformers" not only started off with a bang, but is pleasing audiences too and could enjoy more solid weeks ahead. Its main foe will come from "Potter" which invades multiplexes this Wednesday to get a headstart on what surely will be a gargantuan five-day debut.



Paramount set a new record for the biggest opening week for a non-sequel as its 6.5-day tally edged out the $151.6M that "Spider-Man" grossed in May 2002. The webslinger's figure would be roughly $170M at today's prices, though. Still for Paramount and DreamWorks, "Transformers" marks the biggest live-action opening in company history and their third largest overall debut after the third and second "Shrek" installments.



Adjusting for eleven years of ticket price increases, "Transformers" sold about as many tickets as "Independence Day" did during its extended debut over the same Fourth of July holiday week. Both were effects-driven non-sequel summer action films with ensemble casts about alien forces threatening the safety of Earth. "Independence Day" began its run with 6pm shows on Tuesday night and grossed $96.1M from 2,882 theaters over 5.5 days which at today's prices would be about $125M. "Transformers" collected a slightly better $133.3M in its first 5.5 days. Of course, the comparisons are not exact since ID4 had an earlier start with its Tuesday previews and "Transformers" played in 1,129 more theaters, but the fighting robots did generate the same early July excitement that the alien blockbuster did over a decade ago.



Shia LaBeouf must be hoping that his career will take off the way Will Smith's did back then. The young actor will star opposite Harrison Ford next Memorial Day weekend with Paramount's fourth "Indiana Jones" film which certainly makes his stock climb, and will be looking for a much fatter paycheck when "Transformers 2" negotiations begin.



Moviegoers who preferred rats over robots spent an estimated $29M on the Disney/Pixar hit "Ratatouille" which dropped to second place after losing only 38% of its opening weekend sales. After a stellar midweek holiday period that saw the G-rated toon grossing $33.5M from Monday-to-Thursday, the ten-day cume soared to $109.5M. "Ratatouille" is now catching up to Pixar's "Cars" from last summer which dropped 44% to $33.7M in its second weekend for a ten-day tally of $117.1M. The rodent pic trailed "Cars" by 22% after the first three days, but has now cut the gap to only 6%. "Ratatouille" could find its way to the vicinity of $225M.



Despite direct competition from "Transformers," "Live Free or Die Hard" performed well shooting up an estmated $17.4M for third place this weekend. Down 48%, the PG-13 action sequel upped its cume to $84.2M after 12 days. A final domestic tally of $130-140M could result.



Robin Williams saw only mild results for his latest comedy "License to Wed" which grossed an estimated $10.4M over the weekend and opened to $17.8M over its extended six-day launch period. Playing in 2,604 theaters, the PG-13 pic averaged a mediocre $3,998 over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Critics trashed the Warner Bros. release which tried to position itself as counterprogramming to the testosterone antics of the fighting robots over the holiday week.



Dropping 46% to fifth place was the pricey comedy "Evan Almighty" with an estimated $8.1M in its third weekend giving Universal $78.1M to date. 2003's "Bruce Almighty" grossed a much mightier $171.4M in its first 17 days and cost half as much as "Evan" to produce.



MGM's hit thriller "1408" followed with an estimated $7.1M, down only 33%, for a solid cume of $53.8M. Universal's comedy "Knocked Up" also held up well dipping 29% to an estimated $5.2M. The impressive total stands at $132M which is already 21% better than the final gross of director Judd Apatow's last film "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" which laughed up $109.3M in 2005.



Fox's comic book sequel "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" suffered the worst drop in the top ten falling 55% to an estimated $4.2M for a $123.8M total (9% behind its predecessor). Lionsgate expanded its Michael Moore documentary "Sicko" from 441 to 702 theaters and grossed an estimated $3.7M, off just 19%, pushing the cume to $11.5M. George Clooney and pals rounded out the top ten by looting an estimated $3.5M with "Ocean's Thirteen," down 42%, and raised the sum to $109.1M (5% behind "Ocean's Twelve").



Three new films debuted well in limited release over the weekend. MGM's Vietnam war drama "Rescue Dawn" opened in six theaters with an estimated $104,000 for a potent $17,375 average. With $161,000 over five days, the Christian Bale film played to an older male audience and expands to the top ten markets this Friday. Fox Searchlight's thriller "Joshua" bowed in six sites as well and grossed an estimated $51,086 for an average of $8,514. The distributor will widen the run into about 140 locations this coming weekend. Warner Independent opened its comedy "Introducing the Dwights" in four playdates and collected an estimated $31,000 for a three-day average of $7,750. Five-day total was $46,000. On Friday, the R-rated pic will expand to about 40 theaters.



Two films fell from the top ten over the weekend. The megahit "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" became the 25th film in history to sail past the $300M mark with its estimated $3M take in its seventh frame. Down 39%, the Johnny Depp adventure upped its total to $301.7M from North America keeping it at number 25 on list of all-time domestic blockbusters. A final gross of $305-310M seems likely domestically. Overseas ticket sales have surpassed $614M putting the global gross at a colossal $916M and counting.



Focus enjoyed a good hold with its star-driven drama "Evening" which took in an estimated $2.3M, off 33% in its sophomore frame. But the ten-day cume is still only at $8.3M meaning a not-so-impressive $15M final seems likely.



Among the summer's biggest hits, "Shrek the Third" grossed an estimated $1.4M, down 48%, while "Spider-Man 3" dipped 42% to an estimated $350,000. Total domestic grosses stand at $316.6M and $334.4M, respectively, and both films have now joined the Top 20 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list.



The top ten films grossed an estimated $156.2M which was down 25% from last year when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" shattered the opening weekend box office record with $135.6M; but up 15% from 2005 when "Fantastic Four" debuted on top with $56.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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