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‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is a Transformula for Failure, and Other Sad Box Office Stories

Forget about the critics: it's getting hard to defend "Transformers: The Last Knight" at the box office. However, that little shark movie is doing well.

Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, from Paramount Pictures.

“Transformers: The Last Knight”

Credit: Paramount Pictures/Bay F

Rival studios gave “Transformers: The Last Knight” a wide berth, not that it was necessary. While that assured its entry at #1, it set the wrong kind of record as the lowest-opening entry in Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise. A Wednesday opening camouflages the size of its weekend drop, and while its worldwide haul stands at just under $200 million, once again domestic theaters are the major losers.

There’s scattered good news, including another strong hold for “Wonder Woman,” but this was another down weekend led by another lackluster sequel.

READ MORE: Studios Are Right: Rotten Tomatoes Has Ruined Film Criticism — Opinion

Next weekend should change the tone with “Despicable Me 3” (Universal) primed for a possible $100 million opening, with Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” (Sony) and the Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy “The House” adding to the potential. The need for a gamechanger keeps getting bigger.

MEET THE LEGENDS — Lightning McQueen comes hood to hood with a group of characters who represent the roots of stock car racing—and provide a link to Lightning’s late coach and mentor, Doc Hudson. From left: River Scott (voice of Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Junior “Midnight” Moon (voice of Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson), Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), Louise “Barnstormer” Nash (voice of Margo Martindale), and Lightning himself (voice of Owen Wilson). “Cars 3” opens in U.S. theaters  on June 16, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“Cars 3”


The Top Ten

1. Transformers: The Last Knight (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 27; Est. budget: $217 million

$45,300,000 in 4,069 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $11,133; Cumulative: $69,095,000

2. Cars 3 (Disney) Week 2 – Last weekend #1

$25,200,000 (-53%) in 4,256 theaters (no change); PTA: $5,915; Cumulative: $99,883,000

3. Wonder Woman (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #2

$25,175,000 (-39%) in 3,933 theaters (-85); PTA: $6,401; Cumulative: $318,380,000

4. 47 Meters Down (Entertainment Studios) Week 2 – Last weekend #5

$7,435,000 (-34%) in 2,471 theaters (+201); PTA: $3,009; Cumulative: $24,261,000

5. All Eyez on Me (Lionsgate) Week 2 – Last weekend #3

$5,850,000 (-78%) in 2,471 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,367; Cumulative: $38,642,000

6. The Mummy (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #4

$5,837,000 (-60%) in 2,980 theaters (-827); PTA: $1,959; Cumulative: $68,521,000

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Disney) Week 5 – Last weekend #6

$5,239,000 (-42%) in 2,453 theaters (-63); PTA: $2,136; Cumulative: $160,004,000

8. Rough Night (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #7

$4,700,000 (-41%) in 3,162 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,486; Cumulative: $16,635,000

9. Captain Underpants: The First Epic (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #8

$4,280,000 (-40%) in 2,328 theaters (-44); PTA: $1,838; Cumulative: $65,743,000

10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Disney) Week 8 – Last weekend #9

$3,000,000 (-41%) in 1,468 theaters (-72); PTA: $2,044; Cumulative: $380,213,000

The Takeaways

Yet another weekend took a big drop from 2016. The top 10 declined 25 percent from last year, when “Finding Dory” earned $72 million in its second weekend (more than the first five days of the new “Transformers”).

We’re at the point at which the box office risk losing any gains it made over 2016. Year to date, the increase has dropped to under one percent — although July has a shot at reversing the slide.

“Transformers,” in Context

The last three “Transformers” films have all been late June/early July openers, with all opening at $100 million adjusted or more. “The Last Knight” opened on a Wednesday, with $24 million banked before Friday. So the $45 million weekend isn’t quite as bad as it seems.

Had this opened on a normal Friday, with Thursday previews, and most of the initial gross would have gravitated to the weekend, with around a $60 million total. That would have represented a 40 percent drop, sizable and inconsistent with the series’ past performance.

That would be a disaster if the U.S. still ruled the movie universe, but it doesn’t. However, the rest of the world isn’t guaranteed to justify the expensive project (Reports vary, but at least $217 million in production before easily $150 million more for marketing worldwide).

The initial 41 markets, easily led by China, brought in $197 million. Those territories should double (though Chinese numbers have slid sharply since Friday); five top-tiered countries, led by Japan, still await their openings. Foreign could also be down 40 percent. Last time, the international take was $858 million. Now, much above $500 million is in doubt.

And with international used as the rationale for the heavy franchise/sequel commitment, that’s too steep to wave away the relative domestic disinterest.

Domestic will be lucky to reach $150 million. That would be 40 percent down from 2014’s “Age of Extinction.” Worldwide, “The Last Knight” should break even and more — let’s project $650 million at the low end for all theatrical. Likely, no more than half will go to Paramount given China’s low 25 percent film rental. It will need post-theatrical revenues to get into profit.

“Wonder Woman”

“Wonder Woman” On Pace to Move to $380 Million or More

Earlier this week we projected based on third weekend numbers how far Patty Jenkins’ smash will rise. The guess included a 40 percent drop this weekend. It held in at 39 percent, virtually tied with “Cars 3” for second place (the latter only in its second weekend).

READ MORE: ‘Wonder Woman’ Is the Most Successful Live-Action Film Directed By a Woman — and 4 More Records It Will Break

That keeps it in line for at least a $380 million total ($318 million in, and now officially the biggest gross ever adjusted for a female-directed live action film). The worldwide total (Japan weeks away from opening) continues to look to get to the $800 million range.

“47 Meters Down”

“47 Meters Down” and “All Eyez on Me” Take Different Holdover Paths

Last weekend’s surprise success of Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me” was followed by a steep fall. The estimate of 78 percent down places it among the worst wide-release second weekends. Unlike “Straight Outta Compton,” this looks like a quick run with at best a third week and under a $50 million total. Given its minimal foreign appeal, if the reports of a $40 million production cost are true , what looked like a sleeper hit may struggle to break even.

The Weinstein shark-attack castoff “47 Meters Down” (Entertainment Studios), contrary to most low-budget action films, dropped only 34 percent. A couple hundred more theaters helped a little, but this shows some real appeal and a sense that unlike “All Eyez,” this is the outside-the-studio success at the moment. Despite a decreased gross, it actually jumped a slot to fourth place.

“Cars 3” (Disney) dropped 53 percent from its low-end (for Pixar) opening. Animated tends to hold better than other genres, and most of Pixar’s summer releases have kept drops to below 50 percent. And it faces “Despicable Me 3” next weekend to further damage its future.

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