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Paramount transforms scathing reviews into $363-million worldwide five-day opening

June 28, 2009 | 11:41 am

Optimus Critics be damned. Audiences worldwide loved "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" almost as much as Americans and Canadians, adding $162 million to the film's massive $201-million domestic take Wednesday through Sunday.

With an addition $24 million earned in Britain and Japan last weekend, Paramount's second "Transformers" picture has grossed a total of $387 million.

It was the No. 1 movie in all 58 countries where it opened, with particularly impressive ticket sales in Russia, Australia, South Korea and China, where it opened to $21.9 million, the biggest-ever debut for an English-language movie.

While undeniably impressive, the film's performance internationally, where it launched in every major market, wasn't quite as groundbreaking as it was at home. Overseas, "Revenge of the Fallen" scored the fourth-biggest five-day opening ever, behind "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "Spider-Man 3."

Domestically it's the biggest five-day opening for a movie debuting on a Wednesday by a wide margin and the second-biggest five-day debut starting on any day, just behind "The Dark Knight."

The first "Transformers," by comparison, opened on a Monday in 2007 and earned $155.4 million over its first seven days. (Unlike "Revenge of the Fallen," it didn't open simultaneously in most foreign countries.) A major difference this time around? Women and girls.

The opening-weekend audience for the original was 40% female, but this time it was 46%. Paramount's worldwide distribution and marketing president, Rob Moore, noted that there were a number of ads that focused on the relationship between characters played by Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, as well as a subplot involving parents sending their son off to college, designed to attract a bigger female audience.

There's also no missing the fact that audiences embraced "Transformers." Some films that debut to a huge number on a weekday generate bad buzz and perform softly on the weekend as a result. But "Transformers" saw its ticket sales grow by noticeable margins Friday and Saturday. Although critics ravaged the film with an average score of 37 on the review compilation site Metacritic, moviegoers gave it an average of B-plus, according to the market research firm CinemaScore.

"Audiences loved it and that's all I care about with 'Transformers,'" Moore said.

When the final ticket sales for Sunday are tallied, it's possible the domestic gross for "Transformers" will slip below $200 million. Several competing studios estimated that the movie took in $197 million to $199 million.

Nonetheless, after such a huge opening, "Revenge of the Fallen" will almost certainly sell over $800 million worth of tickets worldwide and be a big seller on DVD, generating very healthy and much-needed returns for Paramount Pictures and a windfall for director Michael Bay, who gets a cut of the movie's profit.

Paramount spend about $200 million to produce the film and $150 million to $175 million on worldwide marketing and distribution.

SisterKeeper Warner Bros.' "My Sister's Keeper," the only other movie to open this weekend, sold a relatively soft $12 million worth of tickets to an audience that was 86% female, with a surprisingly even split between older and younger women. Warner is hoping that the modestly budgeted release from its New Line label will generate good word of mouth among moviegoers of all ages and experience small declines over the next few weeks.

In limited release, Focus Features nearly quadrupled the run of its "Away We Go" to so-so results, earning $1.7 million at 492 theaters. The quirky comedy's total gross is now $4.1 million.

Summit Entertainment had a good start for its war drama "The Hurt Locker," which it bought at last year's Toronto Film Festival. Driven by strong reviews, the film grossed $144,000 at only four theaters, two in Los Angeles and two in New York.

Here are the top 10 films at the domestic box office, based on studio estimates and data from Hollywood.com:

1. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (Paramount): $112 million for the weekend and $201.2 million since Wednesday, plus $163 million over five days overseas and $23 million from Britain and Japan last weekend, bringing its worldwide total to $387 million.

2. "The Proposal" (Disney): $18.5 million, down 45% from its opening weekend. Total domestic ticket sales are now $69.1 million.

3. "The Hangover" (Warner Bros.): $17.2 million, a drop of 36% on its fourth weekend. Total domestic ticket sales stand at $183.2 million.

4. "Up" (Disney/Pixar): $13 million on its fifth weekend, down 45%. Total domestic gross is $250.2 million.

5. "My Sister's Keeper" (Warner Bros./New Line): Opened to $12 million.

6. "Year One" (Sony): $5.8 million, a decline of 70% from its debut weekend. Ticket sales total $32.3 million.

7. "The Taking of Pelham 123" (Sony/Relativity): $5.4 million on its third weekend, a 55% drop. Domestic total is $53.4 million.

8. "Star Trek" (Paramount): $3.6 million on its eighth weekend, down 35%. Total domestic sales are $246.2 million.

9. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (Fox): $3.5 million on its sixth weekend, a decline of 55%. Domestic total is $163.2 million.

10. "Away We Go" (Focus): Expanded from 132 to 495 theaters and grossed $1.7 million, bringing its total to $4.1 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Credit: Paramount Pictures. Second photo: Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva in "My Sister's Keeper." Credit: Sidney Baldwin / New Line Cinema.

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