"Transformers: Age of Extinction" has begun its box-office fight.
The Paramount Pictures film grossed a studio-estimated $8.75 million in ticket sales in the United States on Thursday night, marking a robust start in its race to become the biggest box-office opener of the year.
However, there's no guarantee it will hit the $100-million milestone this weekend.
Michael Bay's fourth "Transformers" movie, which cost $210 million to make and runs two hours and 45 minutes, could be the first movie of 2014 to hit the $100-million mark in its first three days in release in the United States and Canada, if it does as well as analysts had predicted going into the weekend.
Paramount Pictures has projected between $90 million and $100 million through Sunday.
The $8.75-million start comes from Thursday showings that started at 9 p.m. and includes $1.4 million from IMAX.
The early numbers are essentially in line with the year's other big openers. "Godzilla's" $93.2-million opening began with $9.3 million from its Thursday night launch that started at 7 p.m., while "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" kicked off with $8.7 million.
The biggest opening weekend of the year so far stands as "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The Marvel movie's $95-million weekend started at 8 p.m. on a Thursday with $10.3 million in ticket sales.
The latest "Transformers" movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer, is making a huge play overseas.
That's especially true in China, where it easily set a record by generating $3.5 million from midnight previews. Counting results from 22 countries outside the United States, the movie has grossed $30 million internationally so far.
Reviews have been generally poor, evidenced by a 17% "freshness" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter: @rfaughnder.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times