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Box office: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' lagging in U.S. but booming overseas

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Optimus Prime is downshifting at the domestic box office but tearing up the road overseas.

On its first full day in theaters, Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" sold $37.3 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada. While that's the biggest single day for any movie this year, it's 40% less than the $62 million that 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" grossed on its opening day, also a Wednesday.

Combined with some early shows Tuesday at 9 p.m., the new movie has grossed a total of $42.8 million so far. By July 4 Monday it will likely be well short of the $214 millon that "Revenge of the Fallen" collected in its first six full days.

The drop in the number of ticket-buyers is more dramatic because the new film, which cost about $200 million to make, is benefiting from premium 3-D ticket prices. Director Michael Bay encouraged fans to see the movie in 3-D, and about 60% of people so far have done so.

In good news for Paramount, audiences appear to love the film. Despite weak reviews, ticket-buyers gave "Dark of the Moon" an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. "Revenge of the Fallen" got a B+. That means word of mouth should be very strong and the new sequel could drop slower at the box office than its predecessor.

The best news, however, came from overseas. The movie took in $32.5 million internationally on Wednesday, 38% higher than opening-day results in the same 85 countries for "Revenge of the Fallen." Together with some early previews Tuesday, the foreign total for the picture is $36.6 million.

Among the countries where "Dark of the Moon" significantly exceeded its predecessor on its first full day were South  Korea, Australia, India, Germany, France and Russia. The only country where grosses declined was Great Britain, though the second "Transformers" opened on a Friday there, making the comparison to Wednesday more challenging.

It will open in another 26 foreign countries by the weekend, including most of Latin America.

Paramount has aggressively pushed "Dark of the Moon" internationally and even held the movie's world premiere in Moscow, an effort that appears to be paying off.

Though the film will have a difficult time exceeding the $402 million domestic total of "Revenge of the Fallen," it has a good shot at exceeding the 2009 film's $434 million take from overseas. Fast-growing international ticket sales and declining box office at home is an increasingly common outcome for big Hollywood franchises, including the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.

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-- Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Credit: Paramount Pictures

 
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