Paramount's (VIAB) - Get Report "Transformers: The Last Knight" struggled at the domestic box office this weekend, posting a franchise-low $45.3 million for the weekend and $69.1 million in its five-day debut (the film opened on Wednesday). However, while "The Last Knight" was received tepidly stateside, it still packed a powerful punch internationally, especially in China. Elsewhere at the box office, Warner Bros.'s (TWX) "Wonder Woman" surpassed the domestic trajectory of "Batman vs. Superman," and Disney's (DIS) - Get Report "Cars 3" stepped on the brakes in its second weekend. Overall, the Top 12 films at the domestic box office made $135.3 million, down about 25% from both last weekend and the same frame last year.
While the $69.1 million five-day opening for "Transformers: The Last Knight" was in line with Paramount's $70 million prediction heading into the weekend, it's still a disappointing domestic debut for the studio's sturdy franchise. Every "Transformers" film before "The Last Knight" had earned at least $100 million by the end of its first weekend, and the most recent installment's failure to do so is a clear sign of franchise fatigue. The lackluster debut may also have some correlation to the terrible reviews the movie received--while the "Transformers" franchise has never fared well among critics, in recent times, moviegoers have been heeding the advice of the critical community. The 'B+' CinemaScore that audiences handed this installment ranks behind every "Transformers" film (besides the first sequel in 2009) and suggests that word-of-mouth will not be very strong.
The tepid response for "The Last Knight" in the U.S. must be troubling for Paramount and parent company Viacom. The studio has invested quite a bit of money into a writers' room for the robo-franchise, which has already produced 14 scripts. There is a "Transformers" spin-off on the slate for next summer and a sequel to "The Last Knight" scheduled for the summer after that, as Paramount clearly has a lot of eggs in this basket. At this point, studio executives are probably hoping that the pairing of acclaimed director Travis Knight ("Kubo and the Two Strings") and Academy Award-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") on next summer's spin-off will produce a crowd-pleasing hit that turns the franchise around domestically.
Of course, domestic box office earnings are only part of the larger picture now, and the "Transformers" movies are still fairly durable internationally. The $123.4 million that "The Last Knight" made in China was a franchise high, and the fourth-best opening ever in the territory. However, the film experienced steep day-to-day drops, suggesting that "The Last Knight" may fall off the map quickly. The $320 million that the fourth film earned in China seems attainable, but a final total in the $250 to $300 million range seems a bit more likely. It's also worth noting that studios only receive 25% of a film's box office revenue from China, as opposed to over half of the opening weekend revenue in the U.S.
Other territories were solid for "Transformers: The Last Knight" but well short of spectacular. The debuts in Russia, the U.K., Germany and Australia were all less than half of what the fourth film opened to in those territories, signaling franchise fatigue outside of the U.S. as well. The film has already made $196.2 million internationally, but its overseas total could fall well short of the $858.6 million that the fourth film earned outside of the U.S. Expect the latest "Transformers" film to finish up in the $600 to $700 million ballpark globally, well short of the $1 billion+ that the last two films in the franchise earned but still a decent result for the $217 million production.
Back at the domestic box office, there is a tie for second place as both Disney and Warner Bros. called a $25.2 million debut for "Cars 3" and "Wonder Woman," respectively. When weekend actuals are released this afternoon, it's likely that "Wonder Woman" will come out ahead, as Disney was very optimistic about the Sunday figure for "Cars 3."
The DC film dropped a light 39% from last weekend, as audiences continue to line up to see a female superhero grace the screen. "Wonder Woman" has grossed more domestically than "Batman vs. Superman" at the same point in its run, which is incredible considering that superhero origin stories tend to make considerably less than superhero team-ups. It goes to show that quality matters, and the warm reception for "Wonder Woman" has stood in stark contrast to the divided response to "Batman vs. Superman." At the end of its fourth weekend, "Wonder Woman" has made $318.4 domestically and $334.5 internationally for a mighty $652.9 million global total. It surpassed "Mamma Mia" this weekend to become the highest-grossing live action film directed by a woman.
"Cars 3" fell 53% in its second weekend, better than the 60% decline of "Cars 2" but worse than the 44% slide for the first film. The Pixar threequel was probably hurt by the arrival of the new "Transformers" in the marketplace, and it may experience another considerable drop next weekend when "Despicable Me 3" hits theaters. "Cars 3" has earned $99.9 million domestically so far, and looks like it will probably run out of gas around $150 million stateside.
The Top 5 was rounded out by "47 Meters Down" and "All Eyez on Me," two films that debuted the previous weekend. The former film, from new distributor Entertainment Studios, was down only 34% for a $7.4 million weekend and a $24.3 million domestic total. Given the low pre-release expectations for the Mandy Moore thriller, this is a very good result that speaks to the popularity of the shark genre in the summer. "All Eyez on Me" took fifth place with $5.9 million, which was down a huge 78% from last weekend. The poor critical response and big turnout from 2Pac fans last weekend were responsible for the precipitous weekend-to-weekend decline, and the biopic should continue to fade fast from here. The Lionsgate (LGF) film has earned $38.6 million from theaters so far.
Next weekend sees the release of Universal's (CMCSA) - Get Report "Despicable Me 3," which is expected to open to big numbers given the weakness of the family market this summer and the strong box office track record for the franchise. Sony's (SNE) - Get Report heist film "Baby Driver" will attempt to offer some counter-programming, as will Warner Bros.'s Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy "The House." Check back on Thursday for weekend predictions.