Transformers 4 opens in US on $100m
In these uncertain times when studio movies are never guaranteed success, Paramount has done it again. The Transformers franchise is one of the best there is at what it does – and does it when you absolutely, positively gotta eliminate everybody else in the field.
There was a relatively late start to the marketing campaign for Transformers: Age of Extinction when Paramount booked a teaser trailer during Super Bowl 48 in February, but then again, when a property is so familiar, why spend lots of cash to raise awareness far in advance? And so the fourth entry in the noisy sci-fi series arrived at the weekend, delivering the kind of landing nobody could compete with.
The estimated $100m (£59m) debut was the biggest US opening weekend of 2014 so far, although not quite as good as the $108m scored by Revenge of the Fallen in 2009. Not to matter: the sparkle of those double zeroes is all the fuel the marketing and distribution teams at Paramount need to drive this baby into the sunset. Fourth of July weekend will almost certainly belong to Transformers and Michael Bay's cacophony – starring Mark Wahlberg, to boot – is on its way to achieving the $402.1m lifetime gross franchise pinnacle set by Revenge of the Fallen. It may not get there, but it won't half be a close-run thing, by which time all the people who prefer VoD or digital viewing will enter the fray. Job done. Ker-ching.
A pause to reflect on China
The might of China grows each week and this is relevant to Hollywood because beasts such as Age of Extinction get greenlit precisely because the studios know they'll do so well there. This drives the all-important international box office, which can account for 60-65% of a tentpole's global gross. There was a spot of bother last week when it emerged that Pangu Investments, owner of a hotel featured in the movie, threatened legal action that might delay the Chinese release. But guess what? It all got resolved in time and the movie opened on 27 June as planned, but not before studio executives got scared out of their wits.
A fawning statement issued by Paramount vice-chairman Rob Moore on Sunday praising several Chinese partners in the movie's success said it all. Age of Extinction arrived there on around $90m – that's 90% of what it grossed in North America. How long before a Chinese opening weekend takes more than the US equivalent? I'd say we'll see this momentous occasion by the end of summer 2015, the mouth-watering season that promises Avengers 2, Jurassic World and the Terminator reboot, to name a few. One of these will gross more in its first weekend in China than it will in North America. There, I said it. Now it's downhill all the way.
Jersey Boys settles into middle age
Clint Eastwood's biopic about the Four Seasons arrived with a whimper last weekend and did not fare much better in its second session, indicating that the director was right when he reportedly questioned a decision by Warner Bros to release it when they did. The second weekend was all about seeing if the older demographic would come out in support and judging by the 43% drop, you'd have to say some did, but this was not an overwhelming vote in favour, and nothing like the game-changing U-turn the movie needed to steer the story to one of slow-burning success.
If it can stick around a couple more weeks as a counter-programmer with appeal to older audiences, there's a chance Jersey Boys will cross $45m (£27m). Either way, we can expect a Golden Globe campaign at the end of the year ... but don't let the marketing mavens tell you that this was a box-office success, because the $40m drama would need around $80m in theatrical receipts to start looking in good shape and it's not going to get much help from international markets.
The Fault in our Stars rockets past $100m
By contrast, Fox Searchlight's young adult adaptation is a palpable hit in the US and further afield. The movie crossed $100m last week in North America and is about to do the same in the international market place. At a cost of around $12m, this is a bona fide smash. The studio reached out to harness the mighty social footprint of the book's author John Green and banked on the appeal of rising stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, with whom she starred in Divergent. Definitely one of the hits of the summer, whatever happens, and a potential awards contender on the indie circuit.
Toronto premiere Begin Again starts well
As anybody who has seen Once will attest, John Carney knows how to charm an audience. Last autumn his Toronto 2013 world premiere Can a Song Save Your Life? was well enough received for Harvey Weinstein to shell out $7m and commit around $20m to market the movie, which means this weekend's limited release in five theatres is merely appetisers. Weinstein is the master at creating a narrow debut to sell out the theatres and get audiences clamouring for more. So $148,000 from five bodes well for the wider expansion that will come in the weeks ahead. Weinstein also changed the name of the Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo drama with music to Begin Again, which is slightly snappier and one letter closer to A, making it quicker to access on VoD.
North American top 10, 27-29 June 2014
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction, $100m
2. 22 Jump Street, $15.4m. Total: $139.8m
3. How to Train Your Dragon 2, $13.1m. Total: $121.8m
4. Think Like a Man Too, $10.4m. Total: $48.2m
5. Maleficent, $8.2m. Total: $201.9m
6. Jersey Boys, $7.6m. Total: $27.3m
7. Edge of Tomorrow, $5.2m. Total: $84.2m
8. The Fault in our Stars, $4.8m. Total: $109.5m
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past $3.3m. Total: $223.4m
10. Chef, $1.7m. Total: $19.4m
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