Megatron and his sinister robot chums invade the North American box office aiming to extract riches from the multiplexes over the extended Fourth of July holiday week with the tentpole action vehicle "Transformers."
Also entering the marketplace, but likely to gross only a fraction of the cash, is the comedy "License to Wed" starring Robin Williams. With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, moviegoers have all different kinds of schedules with some having only one day off from work while others are taking extra time for themselves. That will make for a tricky box office trajectory since ticket buyers have many films to choose from and many days to make their trip to cinemas.
Paramount sets off the fireworks with "Transformers" which already got an early start to the holiday week with a strong $8.8M in ticket sales on Monday night with shows beginning at 8pm. The PG-13 film from director Michael Bay is adapted from the popular toys and cartoon series that became a cult favorite in the 1980s, but instead has been geared up to fit modern summer movie standards with action, humor, and plenty of special effects. Shia LaBeouf stars alongside Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, Anthony Anderson, and John Turturro.
[Editor’s Note: "Transformers" broke records for having the biggest opening on a Tuesday at $27.9 million, according to Boxofficemojo.com. As of Wednesday night (the original "official" release date), "Transformers" had raked in $36.7 million at the box office — a figure that grants the flick the title of Best 4th of July opening ever. That number (what many have pointed out amounts to over $36 million in 36 hours of release, or $1 million per hour and $16,666 per minute) results from the Paramount release’s $8.8 million Monday night take combined with $27.9 million on Tuesday. An additional $29.1 million from Wednesday’s moviegoers bumps the current "Transformers" box office to $65.7 million — and there are four more days to go.]
"Transformers" is trying hard to follow in the footsteps of "Independence Day" which eleven years ago this week wreaked havoc on the box office with a Fourth of July opening week gross of $96.1M over five and a half days beginning with Tuesday night shows starting earlier at 6pm. That would amount to about $125M at today’s ticket prices from 1,129 fewer theaters than what the robots in disguise now control. Both films are essentially disaster pictures about alien forces that invade Earth that are driven by amazing special effects and feature ensemble casts with no huge stars.
The fanboy crowd has been energized for months for "Transformers" so that vote is locked in. To really see the grosses soar, Paramount and DreamWorks will need non-fans to pony up the dough and take interest not because they remember watching the cartoon as a kid, but because it looks and feels like good escapist summer fare. Luckily the pic delivers on that. Appeal to teens and young adults is potent but older adults looking for action may be tempted to buy a ticket for Bruce Willis in the latest "Die Hard" sequel. In addition, younger children afraid of mean transforming robots will instead line up for "Ratatouille." But so far reviews have been pretty good for its genre and fans are giving high marks too as witnessed by the encouraging A- average grade from over 6,000 votes on Yahoo Movies.
Other effects-driven sci-fi action tentpoles opening over this extended holiday week include 2002’s "Men in Black II" with $87.2M over five days, 2003’s R-rated "Terminator 3" with $72.4M over five and a half days, and $100.5M over five days for "War of the Worlds" in 2005. Optimus Prime should soar higher since it has a full six and a half days of play this week by the time Sunday night arrives. Invading 4,011 theaters, "Transformers" might gross about $67M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a stellar $130M from Monday night through Sunday.
Taking one of his worst beatings from critics in years, Oscar winner Robin Williams hit multiplexes on Tuesday with his latest comedy "License to Wed" playing a wacky priest who puts a newly engaged couple through a series of tests before marrying them. The PG-13 film stars Mandy Moore and "The Office"’s John Krasinski as the lucky twosome. The Warner Bros. title is slotted into this extra long holiday week as counter-programming to the Decepticons and hopes to appeal to women and adult couples not interested in the summer’s umpteenth action extravaganza.
Aside from the former Mork, "License" has no real starpower at the box office. Even Williams has struggled to pack them in on opening weekend in recent years. His last film "Man of the Year" bowed to $12.3M last fall. Word-of-mouth is not likely to be very positive and if anything, the early opening may spread bad buzz as by Friday many will hear from friends that they should avoid this pic. The midweek debut will also dilute the weekend numbers too. A stronger title could have excelled this week with the target audience given all the testosterone flicks, but this one just doesn’t have the goods. Opening in 2,401 theaters, "License to Wed" might collect about $11M over the weekend and $18M during the extended Tuesday-to-Sunday debut period.
Disney and Pixar enjoyed a brief three-day stint in the number one spot last weekend with "Ratatouille" before being pushed aside by the Autobots on Monday. Second weekend drops for Pixar’s summer toons include 44% for last year’s "Cars" and a slimmer 34% for 2003’s "Finding Nemo." The rodent flick is well-liked by moviegoers and competition for younger children is not too direct this coming weekend so a decline in between those two may result. A 35% drop would give "Ratatouille" about $30M for the weekend and a ten-day cume of $109M.
Bruce Willis will have his hands full with "Live Free or Die Hard" on the second weekend thanks to fierce direct competition from "Transformers." A 50% drop would not be surprising and would give Fox around $16.5M for the session boosting the 12-day tally to $83M. Universal’s "Evan Almighty" should continue its rapid slide and dip by 45% to roughly $8M. That would put the Steve Carell comedy at $78M after 17 days.
LAST YEAR: After a long four-year term as the top opening of all-time, "Spider-Man" had its record stolen by Captain Jack as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" crushed the industry mark with an eye-popping three-day bow of $135.6M. The Disney smash easily became the biggest blockbuster of the year with $423.3M domestically and a towering $1.065 billion worldwide and it still stands as the third largest global grosser of all-time. "Superman Returns" tumbled down to second place falling by a disturbing 59% to $21.8M for Warner Bros. Fox’s "The Devil Wears Prada" enjoyed a better sophomore hold dropping 46% to $15M for third place. Rounding out the top five were Adam Sandler‘s "Click" with $11.9M for Sony and Disney/Pixar’s "Cars" with $10.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com