"Transformers: The Last Knight," the fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise from Michael Bay, may have topped the weekend, but all the robot-smashing has gotten a bit rusty at the box office.
The Paramount film, which opened Wednesday, took in $45 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, placing it in the No. 1 spot ahead of returning titles "Cars 3" and "Wonder Woman." When factored into its five-day debut, "The Last Knight" grossed a franchise low of $69 million.
That's just slightly below expectations and well behind its predecessor, "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which opened with $100 million over three days in 2014 — making "The Last Knight" the first film in the franchise not to open to $100 million or more.
The visual effects-heavy blockbuster, which has never been a favorite of critics, played in 4,069 locations in the U.S. and Canada. It earned a B+ CinemaScore with audience members — in which 51% were over the age of 25 and 57% were male.
The latest installment, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins and features a new mythology involving King Arthur and Stonehenge, cost $217 million to make. And however squeaky "The Last Knight's" debut may have been domestically, the film took in an Optimus Prime-sized number overseas. It earned $196 million from its first 40 markets — with $123 million of that haul coming from China.
"In the end, it's a movie that's created for a global audience," said Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution and marketing for Paramount Pictures, when asked about the franchise's domestic box office slowdown. "We make these movies for a global audience, it was received well by a global audience. We're feeling really good about it."
Colligan also dismissed talk of franchise fatigue.
"Two two trends everybody is talking about," Colligan continued, "is the reception of sequels and the impact of Rotten Tomatoes. Both have an impact, I think. Sequels can work. People care a lot about these characters, but there's a cynicism in the U.S. marketplace about these movies and I do think people look to aggregators to decide if they should be giving these movies a shot."
Certainly all of "The Last Knight's" hulking piece of metal did help fend off its returning competitors.
"Wonder Woman," starring Gal Gadot, made another $25 million over the weekend, pushing the Warner Bros. film well past the $300-million mark in its fourth week in theaters. On the global scale, the film's gross is just more than $652 million.
Meanwhile, "Cars 3" fell to third place in its second weekend, grossing $25 million — down 53% from its debut, which also marked a franchise low. The Disney/Pixar film is just shy of crossing the $100-million mark.
Elsewhere, shark flick "47 Meters Down" took in $7.4 million, helping it place fourth for the weekend, while the Tupac biopic "All Eyez on Me" and Tom Cruise-led "The Mummy" were neck and neck for the fifth spot with $5.8 million each.
But all the new stainless steel at the box office wasn't enough to steal the real bright spots from the weekend box office: "The Big Sick" and "The Beguiled."
Both films earned the best theater averages of the year to date, respectively.
"These two movies tell the most powerful stories of the weekend, and the most positive box office stories of the weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "We're in the midst of a summer where it seems audiences are rejecting these big-budget franchise films, and smaller films, at least in their limited run, are creating a lot of enthusiasm."
"The Big Sick," from Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, debuted in five theaters and brought in $435,000 — posting a per-screen average of $87,000.
The film, directed by Michael Showalter ("Wet Hot American Summer"), was a favorite among critics when it premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Based on the screenplay written by "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon about their courtship, the film stars Nanjiani as a slightly fictionalized version of himself opposite Zoe Kazan as Emily, a Chicago grad student. Pulling at their relationship are not only cultural differences, but an illness that lands Emily in a medically induced coma.
"Kumail and Emily's true story provided audiences of all ages a much-needed alternative to the summer blockbusters," said Bob Berney, Head of Marketing & Distribution at Amazon Studios, in a statement. "Michael Showalter's film delivers the laughs and heartfelt moments that will propel it through the summer."
"The Beguiled," meanwhile, debuted in four theaters and earned $241,000 — placing its per-theater average at $60,136. Directed by Sofia Coppola, the Focus Features film stars Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell in the story about a group of women who take a wounded Union soldier into their all-girls boarding school.
"These films aren't crazy expensive, but yet they are filling theaters," Dergarabedian said. "We're always talking about how the international component is so vital for all these big-budget blockbusters. But it's the North American box office that really fuels the continued viability of these specialized films. 'The Big Sick' and 'The Beguiled' are two examples of that."
12 p.m.: This story was updated throughout with quotes from Paramount Studios officials and industry observers, as well as global box office numbers and domestic earnings on additional films beyond "Transformers: The Last Knight."