‘Transformers’ sequel storms the box office worldwide

Problems at Paramount Pictures? For the moment they feel like a distant memory.

Little more than a week after two of the studio’s top three production executives were fired, Paramount scored one of the biggest movie openings of all time with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

The live-action sequel based on Hasbro’s Transformer toys earned $201.2 million Wednesday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to the studio’s estimate. That’s the biggest five-day performance ever for a film that debuted on a Wednesday, and the second-biggest starting any day of the week, behind the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight.”

Grosses were nearly as impressive overseas, where “Transformers” earned $162 million in the same time frame and placed No. 1 in all 58 countries where it opened. Combined with $24 million from Britain and Japan for the previous Friday through Tuesday, the movie has made $387 million in worldwide ticket sales.


Among the film’s high-water marks was the biggest opening for an English-language movie in China, where it earned $21.9 million.

In the U.S., “Revenge of the Fallen” benefited from an expanded audience of women, thanks in part to advertising aimed at teen girls that focused on the blossoming romance between the characters played by Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, and ads targeting adult women that emphasized a subplot involving LaBeouf’s on-screen parents.

Audiences ignored the movie’s critical drubbing and gave it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

“That tells me loud and clear it delivered what audiences want out of ‘Transformers’: a big, fun escape,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount.

The only other movie to open this weekend, Warner Bros.’ tear jerker “My Sister’s Keeper,” started with a relatively soft $12 million but may hold on for a while if it gets good buzz from an audience that was 86% women.

A final worldwide gross of more than $800 million is all but certain for the “Transformers” sequel. Approximately half of that money will flow back to Paramount, with the rest going to theater owners.

A strong box-office performance is typically the springboard for other revenue streams such as DVD sales and television deals.

As a result, “Revenge of the Fallen,” which cost about $200 million to produce and $150 million to $175 million to market and distribute, will prove a big moneymaker for Paramount. It also has now cemented its position as one of the industry’s most valuable big-screen brands alongside “Harry Potter,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Spider-Man.”

In an interview Sunday, Paramount Chairman Brad Grey said he planned to make a third “Transformers” movie, as well as a follow-up to the smaller but still solid hit “Star Trek.”

“One of the mandates when I came to Paramount was to build franchises, and I think this summer we’ve accomplished what we set out to do,” said Grey, who took his job in early 2005.

Grey had a rough first few years, most notably because of the short-lived presence of DreamWorks Studios, which was acquired by Paramount later that year. Last fall the DreamWorks principals, including Steven Spielberg, left with their brand name to become independent again and subsequently signed a distribution deal with Walt Disney.

“Transformers” was developed by DreamWorks but the rights stayed with Paramount after the split. Spielberg remains an executive producer.

A third “Transformers” and second “Star Trek” will help solve a pressing problem for Paramount: a paucity of films on its future slate. Weak development was a primary reason cited for the sacking of film group President John Lesher and production President Brad Weston a week and a half ago.

Adam Goodman, who came to the studio from DreamWorks and previously shared Weston’s title, was moved into Lesher’s role.

Even if Paramount manages to make another “Transformers” or a “Star Trek” sequel in the two years that it managed to rush “Revenge of the Fallen” into theaters, the studio still has significant work to do to fill out its slate.

“We streamlined based on the economics of the business and now we’re focused on launching major tent poles and putting together a portfolio of films,” Grey said. “My eye is on 2011 and beyond.”

“Transformers” director Michael Bay set himself up for an enormous payday from the movie’s performance, thanks to a deal that gives him a cut of profits from all revenue sources after Paramount recoups its costs. Bay walked off with about $75 million thanks to a similar deal on the first “Transformers” movie, which grossed $708 million worldwide and will almost certainly make more because of the hit sequel.

Grey expressed no regrets about Bay’s gigantic paycheck.

“I feel great about the deal,” he said. “When Paramount and [parent] Viacom make a lot of money, I believe the filmmaker should do the same.”





Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* -- Movie 3-day gross Percent Total Days in age change from -- (studio) (millions) last (millions) release weekend 1 Transforme $112 NA $201.2 5 rs: Revenge -- of the Fallen -- (Paramount) 2 The $18.5 -45% $69.1 10 Proposal -- (Disney) 3 The $17.2 -36% $183.2 24 Hangover -- (Warner Bros./Lege ndary) 4 Up $13.0 -44% $250.2 31 (Disney/Pixar) 5 My $12.0 NA $12.0 3 Sister’s Keeper -- (Warner Bros./New Line) 6 Year One $5.8 -70% $32.3 10 -- (Sony) 7 The Taking $5.4 -55% $53.4 17 of Pelham 123 -- (Sony/Rela tivity) 8 Star Trek $3.6 -35% $246.2 52 -- (Paramount /Spyglass) 9 Night at $3.5 -55% $163.2 38 the Museum: -- Battle of the Smithsonia n -- (Fox) 10 Away We Go $1.7 +93% $4.1 24 -- (Focus) *--*


Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $200 +8% $5.13 +12% *--*


Sources: Times research and Box Office