"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is in no need of WD-40 for its box-office joints.
Paramount's 3-D tent pole, the fourth in the Michael Bay-directed franchise, simultaneously topped the domestic box office over the weekend and took top honors as the first movie of 2014 to earn $100 million in its first weekend, according to estimates from its distributor. It bested the last film in the series, 2011's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which had a $97.9-million debut.
The visual effects-heavy blockbuster, which cost an Optimus Prime-sized $210 million to make, played in 4,233 locations and got off to a strong start with its Friday opening pulling in $41.6 million. And audiences seem to dig the action-fest with the flick earning an A- CinemaScore after receiving dismal reviews from critics.
The stats indicate that the reboot's leading man switch-up — Mark Wahlberg took center stage, replacing Shia LaBeouf — was of no concern for moviegoers. And it certainly worked out for Wahlberg, who landed the biggest opening of his career. The film centers on a mechanic (Wahlberg) who discovers that a run-down truck is actually a robot.
"I think it's safe to say that Michael Bay taking an extra year off to relaunch the franchise couldn't have gone better," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. "And Mark was a fresh addition to the cast."
Moore also boasted about Paramount's decision to co-produce with a pair of Chinese studios, Jiaflix Enterprises and China Movie Channel. It may have helped the hulking piece of metal overseas — where it opened in major markets including China, Russia, and Australia, as well as other territories — earning an international total of $201.3 million. In China alone it brought in $90 million for the weekend, making it the biggest opening for a foreign film ever.
It will get a post-World Cup roll out in Europe and Latin America.
"I think it all worked out incredibly well," Moore said. And it resulted in a strong performance in China." The film's plot also took some of its action to China, with scenes shot in the Chinese mainland and featuring Chinese actors Li Bingbing and Han Geng.
"If other studios aren't paying attention to what Paramount did with China now, they will and they should soon," said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax. The film, from Friday through Sunday, took in $25 million globally from only 619 Imax screens. The Imax results in China more than doubled the previous record, with a three-day weekend gross of more than $10 million, besting 2013's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug's" $4.55 million.
All that stainless steel fended off new competitors, with no other movie opening nationwide over the weekend — leaving Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to bask in the robot shadows.
The Sony buddy comedy "22 Jump Street," remaining strong in its third week, got comfy with its favorite numeral in holding down the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive week with an estimated $15.4 million. That brings its three-week total to $139.8 million.
Meanwhile, Sony's victor last week, "Think Like a Man Too," dropped 64% to fourth place with an estimated $10.4 million in its second week. All the testosterone wasn't enough to slay a certain computer-animated dragon.
DreamWorks "How to Train Your Dragon 2," instead, landed in third place with $13.1 million in its third week.
Rounding things out was Disney's "Maleficent," which continues to perform wickedly well. The Angelina Jolie-starring film took in $8.2 million, allowing it to grab the golden apple, passing the $200-million benchmark. That left the Clint Eastwood-directed adaptation of the Tony-winning musical "Jersey Boys" to sing backup, falling to No. 6 in its second week with $7.6 million.