Paramount Pictures is sending in its biggest tentpole, “Transformers,” for a fifth round at the box office tonight. But the recent trend of domestic franchise fatigue might take its toll on “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which is currently tracking for a $70 million five-day total.
By comparison, the first “Transformers” film made $70 million in its three-day opening weekend ten years ago, and the three sequels that have been released since have scored openings between $97-108 million.
The good news for “Transformers” and Paramount is that it is one of several franchises that has seen its overseas returns increase with each successive installment as developing markets increase their buying power. The first “Transformers” took 55 percent of its global cume from overseas with $390 million. Seven years and three movies later, the franchise’s fourth installment, 2014’s “Age of Extinction,” made 77 percent of its $1.1 billion haul — $858 million, to be exact — from outside the U.S.
“Age of Extinction” was also the first “Transformers” movie that made more money in China than the U.S., with the Middle Kingdom contributing a then-record $320 million to America’s $245 million.
“The Last Knight” will try to match that result as it opens in China on Friday along with 41 other markets, including Korea, UK, and Russia, with openings in Latin America, France and Spain coming in the coming weeks. Just like “Age of Extinction,” this film has several Chinese financing and marketing partners behind it, including Huahua Media, Shanghai Film Group, Weying Technology, and Dalian Wanda Group. Combined with the U.S., the film is looking at a projected global opening of around $230-270 million against a budget of $217 million.
Paramount needs a strong return from this film, as it has suffered a series of box office flops through the first half of 2017 that has left it in sixth place in domestic market share and in danger of finishing outside the top five in that category for the sixth consecutive year. After the mid-budget success of their Oscar-winning film “Fences” late last year, Paramount released the $125 million “Monster Trucks” in January, only to see the film gross $64.5 million worldwide.
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After that came “Rings” ($83 million worldwide against a $25 million production budget), “Ghost in the Shell” ($170 million global/$110 million budget), and most recently, “Baywatch” (currently $120 million global/$55 million budget). The only film that has made a solid profit for the studio this year is “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage,” an $85 million film that only made $44 million domestically but grossed $301 million overseas, including $164 million from China. Like “Transformers,” that film received financial help from Huahua Media and Shanghai Film Group, who entered an agreement to co-finance Paramount’s entire slate for the next three years.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is directed by Michael Bay from a screenplay by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy and Ian Bryce, with Bay, Steven Spielberg, Brian Golden and Mark Vahradian as EPs. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock.