Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Day One

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

June 30, 2011

It looks like a hand vacuum blown up to Godzilla size.

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There are huge expectations for a pair of releases over the next couple of weeks, and the first of them, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, has provided some early July 4th fireworks by tallying the biggest opening day of 2011 to date. According to Exhibitor Relations, Inc., the third Transformers film has earned $43.2 million from the start of its 9 p.m. screenings on Tuesday to close of business on Wednesday.

The $37.3 million the film earned on Wednesday surpasses Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' $34.9 million to become the largest single day opening of 2011 so far. Yes, that total will be smoked in a couple of weeks when the Harry Potter franchise concludes, but Transformers 3 does have tentpole bragging rights at the moment. With regards to the Transformers franchise itself, $43.2 million represents an 18% increase from the first film's first 30 hours of revenue. It is, however, only 70% of the whopping $62 million that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen managed on its first day of release almost exactly two years ago. So, the glass can be half full or half empty depending upon your opinion of Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf and the Transformers franchise.


What we can say with confidence is that the questionable quality of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was expected to have a negative impact on the debut of Dark of the Moon. We're about to say something that will seem a bit strange for a movie that is only 36% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, but the third Transformers title has been much better received than its immediate predecessor, which is only 20% fresh, with 85% of Top Critics actively disliking that monstrosity (clearly, we agree with the 85%).

BOP is loathe to project five days of numbers based on a single day of box office since it's such a shaky data point - especially with a film whose box office has been such a moving target, with shifting numbers reported by various outlets. What we would note is that 15.4% of Revenge of the Fallen's total box office was earned on opening day, while the much leggier Transformers earned only 11.5% of its total box office in its first 30 hours of exhibitions. If we use these numbers as a baseline and presume that Dark of the Moon as a second sequel won't be that leggy, we're still looking at a box office total in the range of $290-330 million, give or take a bit. Our perception of the title is that it will flame out at least as quickly as Transformers 2 did (almost exactly half that film's box office was earned in its first five days of release).

We don't see $300 million as a foregone conclusion, but the key to determining whether it can get there is whether or not the film has made about $160 million by close of business Monday. That's a decent line of demarcation for the amount of progress that Transformers 3 needs to make, unless it just has godawful, Tron Legacy-ish legs from that point forward.

The other side of the Transformers story that everyone is tracking involves its massive overseas popularity. The first two Transformers films had combined global box office in excess of $1.5 billion. Dark of the Moon is off to an even better start than the prior two titles. Its $32.5 million international take is 38% higher than Revenge of the Fallen managed in the same countries. Including Tuesday night revenue, Transformers: Dark of the Moon had a global first day of about $80 million.

Given its massive opening day take, Transformers 3 is going to be huge. It's likely to be the worst performer of the three movies in the franchise domestically, but internationally, it will blow prior numbers out of the water. That's the way box office is going in 2011. In the end, Transformers: Dark of the Moon could either be the biggest grosser of 2011, or the second biggest grosser of July. We'll find out in a couple of weeks.



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