Paramount's third "Transformers" movie debuted to $13.5 million in Tuesday-night sneak-peak/midnight box office revenue, a solid debut but one that did not match the $16.6 million premiere of "Transformers 2" in June 2009.
About 70 percent of the "Transformers 3's" box office came from 3D runs, although the vast majority of the initial screen count was presenting the movie in the format.
Making a sneak-peak premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m. at approximately 2,700 theaters, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" grossed approximately $5.5 million, according to Paramount. It added another $8 million after midnight.
The film grossed nearly $1.4 million playing at 146 domestic IMAX runs and another $650,000 at 100 international IMAX locations.
Michael Bay's third "Transformers," co-produced by DreamWorks and toymaker Hasbro, did surpass 2007's original "Transformers," which did $8.8 million on post-8 p.m. sneaks and midnight shows.
The biggest midnight opening of the year remains Warner's "Hangover Part II," which opened to $10.4 million last month.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" opens day in date in 111 territories around the world and is expected to gross nearly $180 million in its first six full days of dometic box-office release.
Like the durable extraterrestrial robots it showcases, the Transformers franchise takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Coming off terrible reviews for the second installment, 2009's box-office rainmaker "Revenge of the Fallen," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is expected to open to only slightly less money.
According to one research official at a rival studio, Michael Bay's latest "Transformers" -- which opens Wednesday in 4,011 locations, about 2,800 showing it in 3D -- is tracking about 12 percent below "Revenge of the Fallen." (About 2,700 locations are gearing up Tuesday night for sneak peaks.)
The researcher said the 3D sequel should take in around $180 million over the 6 1/2-day span from when it opens at 9 p.m. Tuesday night to when the last firecracker goes off on Monday the Fourth of July.
Not that producers DreamWorks, Paramount, Hasbro, et. al. are at all concerned. The tracking is still huge.
According to research firm NRG, 95 percent of males 25 and younger know the movie is coming out, and 71 percent report "definite interest" in seeing it. Fully 30 percent call "Transformers 3" their "first choice" to see next time they're in the multiplex.
Those numbers are similar to the pre-release tracking for Warner's mega-hit "Hangover Part II" last month (save for the "first choice" number, which was a massive 39 percent for "Hangover").
"Dark of the Moon" -- which is costing well over $300 million to produce and market worldwide -- should make its money back during its first weekend, while also opening in most international territories (111 to be exact).
Paramount officials expect the film will ultimately match the $836.3 million grossed worldwide by "Transformers 2." (The original 2007 "Transformers" grossed $709.7 million.)
Subbing in the sex appeal of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for Megan Fox, who didn't get along with Bay, reviews for "Dark of the Moon" are, so far, only slightly better than "Revenge of the Fallen."
As of mid-day Tuesday, "Transformers 3" was scoring a 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (version 2.0 finished with a gawd-awful 20 percent).
Roger Ebert called Bay's latest creation "a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments."
“Rarely has a movie had less of a soul and less interesting characters," added film critic Richard Roeper.
Rarely, however, have moviegoers cared less about what critics say as with the Transformers franchise.