Movie Projector: 'Transformers' will detonate competition at holiday box office
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" will easily crush the competition at the holiday box office this weekend, but its debut won't be as mighty as the previous installments in the robot franchise.
The third "Transformers" film, which cost about $200 million to make and is the first in the series to be released in 3-D, opened on Tuesday evening in the U.S. and Canada, since grossing $42.8 million. On its first full day in theaters, the movie collected $37.3 million, marking the biggest single day for any picture released so far this year.
But that number was 40% lower than the $62 million that 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" collected domestically on its opening day.
The early grosses for the latest "Transformers" film indicate that it's on track to collect about $160 million over its first six days in release, far less than the $214 million "Revenge of the Fallen" made in the same period of time two years ago.
Audiences who have already seen the new "Transformers" film this week, however, appear to love it, assigning it an average grade of A. That's positive news for Paramount, as "Revenge of the Fallen" only received a B+, meaning the third "Transformers" film could benefit from strong buzz in the coming weeks.
The studio is also heralding the success of "Dark of the Moon" overseas, where the film has already grossed $36.6 million. Paramount held the movie's world premiere in Moscow earlier this month and is hoping its international tally will exceed "Revenge of the Fallen's" $434 million. The film, currently playing in 85 countries, will open in an additional 26 foreign markets by the weekend, including most of Latin America.
Meanwhile, projections indicate that the upcoming weekend's two new releases, "Larry Crowne" and "Monte Carlo," will not come close to the reach of "Dark of the Moon," though each are attempting to attract specific segments of the audience.
"Larry Crowne," directed, co-written by and starring Tom Hanks along with Julia Roberts, is expected to take in about $14 million over the four-day holiday weekend. "Monte Carlo," featuring popular tween singer-actress Selena Gomez, will likely debut to less than $9 million.
If projections are correct, "Cars 2," which has been in theaters for a week, should come in second place at the box office this weekend. The Pixar-produced animated film raked in $66.2 million in its debut, and the first "Cars" film only saw its ticket sales fall 44% on its second weekend of release in 2006.
Both "Larry Crowne" and "Monte Carlo" will also still face some competition from "Bad Teacher." The raunchy comedy starring Cameron Diaz collected $31.6 million when it opened last weekend, but may suffer from poor word-of-mouth, with the film only garnering a weak average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
"Larry Crowne," about a middle-age man who decides to attend community college, is appealing largely to older females. Hanks has for weeks been promoting the movie on talk shows, including "Oprah" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
The movie was financed by Vendôme Pictures for about $30 million, but is being released by Universal Pictures, which is paying for the film's marketing and collecting a distribution fee.
"Larry Crowne" is the second release from Vendôme, French producer Philippe Rousselet's company, whose first movie, "Source Code," collected a decent $54.5 million earlier this year.
"Monte Carlo" was also inexpensive to make: It was produced by Fox 2000 Pictures -- a 20th Century Fox label -- and New Regency Pictures for about $20 million. The movie, which stars Gomez as a young woman who travels to Europe and is mistaken for royalty there, is rated PG and aimed at girls age 15 and younger.
Gomez, who rose to popularity on the Disney Channel show "Wizards of Waverly Place," has spent the last month promoting the film on a nationwide 10-city mall tour, performing songs featured on the movie's soundtrack.
"Monte Carlo" will also open this weekend in 12 foreign markets, including Russia and Singapore.
-- Amy Kaufman and Ben Fritz
Upper photo: Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Credit: Paramount Pictures
Lower photo: Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne." Credit: Universal Pictures