Sub-Par Openers Slow July 4th Box Office
By John Hamann
July 6, 2014
The July 4th weekend is providing few fireworks at the box office, as the slower Friday - due in part to the holiday, but also impacted by Hurricane Arthur on the East Coast – did not provide much of a launching point. But is that really the problem with the box office this weekend?
If you wanted to see a good movie this weekend, you had to look pretty hard. Openers this weekend included Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, another film where the centerpiece is likely funny, but the bits don’t add up to a movie; Earth to Echo, an E.T. for 2014 without the quality; and Deliver Us from Evil, a horror film that looks like it was made up of pieces from The Exorcist, Se7en and Law and Order. All of these films received poor reviews, and two of three had Cinemascores worse than a B. On top of that, we have Transformers: Age of Extinction, starring our future Chinese overlords, and America, another right wing documentary from the man who brought us 2016: Obama’s America. Sounds like a fun weekend to go to the movies (not).
Finishing first amongst the dreck is the king of it, Transformers: Age of Extinction, from the ruler of the movie whores, Michael Bay. After dominating the planet last weekend with a $100 million domestic gross, and $300 million worldwide, Transformers 4 got punished this weekend. After a July 4th Friday gross of $10.6 million, the 17% fresh Paramount release could only muster $36.4 million over the weekend proper. That gives the movie that cost $210 million to make a drop from opening weekend of 64%, a small part of which is due to July 4th falling on a Friday. The previous Transformers movies didn’t struggle this much in weekend two, as the first fell 48%, the second fell 61% and the third fell 52%. The second and fourth films – the two with the biggest drops – both had July 4th falling within their second weekends; the first and third did not. This is also the lowest second weekend for a Transformers movie, with the first earning $37 million in weekend two, the second earning $42.3 million, and the third $47.1 million. Transformers 4 won’t cause extinction, but hopefully there’s a crack showing.
The weekend take for Transformers: Age of Extinction brings the domestic total up to $174.7 million for the two hour and 45 minute film, but the domestic tally is not overly important to the folks at Paramount. The story of the week has been about how Transformers 4 made more in China over its first five days than it did in North America, and led to a great opinion piece in Variety entitled “Transformers: A Splendidly Patriotic Film, If You Happen to Be Chinese." The piece speaks to how American leaders are portrayed as “sniveling fools” and the Chinese are “assured and effective” in the film. I have said in this column many times that movies are no longer made for North Americans, but that usually is a statement about American films becoming more worldly, not more Chinese or targeted at a specific country. In the case of Transformers: Age of Extinction, the foreign take has reached $400 million after 10 days of release, and should finish as a $1 billion worldwide earner. Personally, I hope folks come out in numbers for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes next weekend, as it appears to be a very good if not great film, and leave this Transformers dreck behind.