There's astronomically good and slightly bad to report as the sequel to a less-than-critically-loved-blockbuster-created-solely-to-move-toys hit the marketplace. Michael Bay's “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” underperformed domestically compared to its predecessor. It grossed $97.4 million in its Friday to Sunday opening box-office weekend, compared to the $108 million "Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen" accumulated in 2009 without the aid of inflated 3D ticket surcharges (and yet, it's won the top-grossing weekend of 2011 so far). But an overseas bonanza did take place as expected. Hauling in $372 million worldwide so far, "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," set the record for the third best worldwide debut of all time. And good news for ailing 3D numbers -- approximately 60% of the ticket sales came from theaters using the stereoscopic visual format.
The last “Transformers” film took in $836 million globally -- despite being a deeply unpleasant experience -- and even if “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” fails to equal the domestic take of the first film ($319 million -- seriously, these movies excite too many rational people), there’s reason to believe worldwide 3D-enhanced numbers could push this film over a billion. And it's still not over, 'Transformers 3' is expected to haul in $180.8 million domestically by the time its all said and done on the July 4th weekend numbers and if it does so, it will beat out the all-time Independence Day record held by "Spider-Man 2" ($180 million). Globally, the international numbers may hit $405.8 million by Monday. There's no accounting for taste.
What's next? A Sam Witwicky-less reboot with Michael Bay producing is likely, but all parties involved will have to wait a few years.
Bay is Teflon at this point: everyone in the industry knows he was strongarmed into making the third film and utilizing 3D (thanks to his public bitching), and setting up his next one, the much cheaper “Pain And Gain,” should be a breeze. Bay (and Hasbro) also walk away with a huge chunk of that backend -- each of the first two films practically made him a hundred millionaire. But domestically there were deeper issues that Paramount folks may have to answer for. 'Dark of the Moon' grossed $162.million after five days and without inflated 3D charges, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" took in $200.7 million over the same period -- a difference of $38 million, which is eye-opening. Still, the huge tally so far will outweigh the bad and soften the blow, though surely some U.S. meetings of "what happened here?" will take place.
Sadly, Universal can’t say, “it sold toys” in regards to the underperformance of “Larry Crowne.” As we’ve repeated in this space before -- the mark of a star is the ability to take an unappealing, uninteresting and/or nonexistent premise and open the corresponding film to a gross around $12-$14 million. The concept-less ads for “Larry Crowne” solidified that this was a movie entirely coasting on the star power of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, barely conveying an angle other than “old man gets fired. Parties. Mopeds.”
Sometimes it’s a matter of two big stars combining demographics. And sometimes the fanbases are just so similar, which is likely the case with the older-skewing 'Crowne.' Roberts’ appeal was negligible as she was clearly playing “the girl,” which usually nullifies the box office potential of certain actresses who register stronger as leads, as we‘re only a year removed from “Eat Pray Love“ hitting $200 million global. They marketed 'Crowne' as Hanks playing old (and slightly retarded?) with absolutely nothing sexy, dangerous, exciting or rule-breaking to appeal to the under-35 crowd (who, Cinemascore says, rated the film a C+). They got the opening they paid for, essentially, so, no alarms, no surprises.
Sandwich between the new debuts was weekend two of “Cars 2.” The film is definitely more frontloaded than the average Pixar offering, which isn’t a huge surprise, as this brand name seems to have limited cinematic appeal compared to the universal love for the “Toy Story” entries. Globally, the Disney ‘toon continues to slay them at a much higher rate than the original, and with the merchandising bonanza, this will be even bigger than the first “Cars.” If it’s good for Pixar, it can’t be all bad, right?
“Bad Teacher” had a solid second weekend fall cushioned by the holiday period. Over $60 million after the long weekend, “Teacher” has already over-performed, though the steep drop is probably more indicative of the film’s appeal than the overall numbers. Still, a home run for all involved -- frequently-troubled director Jake Kasdan finally played the studio game and won. Rounding out the top five, Fox counter programmed by opening the young-skewing “Monte Carlo.” The results were predictable.
Chalk up another ouch to “Green Lantern,” which fell out of the top five after two weekends, even landing behind the week-older “Super 8.” “Lantern” will likely be out-grossed by JJ Abrams’ $100 million smash despite being significantly cheaper and not having the benefit of a 3D surcharge. This one hurts. Customary falls as well for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Bridesmaids,” both of which landed beyond $50 million and $150 million this weekend, while “Midnight In Paris” boasted the lowest audience drop of any film in the top ten, as the film becomes one of Woody Allen’s all-time higher grossers.
In related box office records, "Bridesmaids" surpassed "Sex and the City" to become the top R-rated female comedy of all time as it reached the $152.9 million mark domestically. And guaranteeing Johnny Depp will perform this role until he is old and gray in the dinner theater market, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" crossed the $1 billion mark. Audiences have spoken once more: we still want the same brand-recognizable crap we've come to love and/or tolerate.
1. Michael Bay Hates You (Paramount) - $97.4 million ($162 mil.)
2. Cars Dos (Disney) - $25.1 million ($116 mil.)
3. Subpar Educator (Sony) - $14.1 million ($60 mil.)
4. Hanks Rides A Moped (Universal) - $13 million
5. Monte Carlo (Fox) - $7.6 million
6. Super 8 (Paramount) - $7.5 million ($108 mil.)
7. Gangrene Lantern (Warner Bros.) - $6.3 million ($102 mil.)
8. Mr. Popper's Unlicensed Animals (Fox) - $5.1 million ($50 mil.)
9. Bridesmaids (Universal) - $3.5 million ($153 mil.)
10. Past Your Bedtime In Paris (Sony) - $3.4 million ($34 mil.)