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Transformers debuts with bang

By ANOUSHA SAKOUI AND ALEX BARINKA Bloomberg

This article was published July 4, 2014 at 2:01 a.m.

nicola-peltz-and-mark-wahlberg-star-in-paramount-pictures-transformers-age-of-extinction-it-came-in-first-at-last-weekends-box-office-and-made-about-100-million

Nicola Peltz and Mark Wahlberg star in Paramount Pictures’ Transformers: Age of Extinction. It came in first at last weekend’s box office and made about $100 million.

Transformers: Age of Extinction, Paramount Pictures' summer blockbuster, opened with weekend sales of $100 million to mark the biggest domestic debut of the year.

The film, the first in a new trilogy of the alien-robot franchise from Viacom Inc.'s studio, generally met estimates. It was projected to open with $99 million and $104 million, respectively, by researchers BoxOffice.com and Box Office Guru. The only movie in wide release in U.S. and Canadian theaters, it easily outdistanced returning film 22 Jump Street, according to Rentrak Corp.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is forecast to be the biggest movie of the summer, and may give a lift to the domestic box office, which has lagged behind last year in ticket sales. The film pulled in more than $300 million worldwide in its first weekend, shattering the record in China on Imax screens. It may reach $1 billion in its global theatrical run, according to BoxOffice.com chief analyst Phil Contrino.

"For Paramount, it's huge to have the No. 1 film," Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. "Their release schedule is probably the leanest. This was important to make sure this franchise is firing on all cylinders."

Age of Extinction is one of Paramount's most important pictures of the year, alongside Hercules, scheduled for release July 25, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, set to open Aug. 8. The April release Captain America: The Winter Soldier from Walt Disney Co., had been the biggest domestic debut of 2014, at $95 million.

Filmed in the United States and China, Age of Extinction had a production budget of $165 million, excluding marketing costs, according to IMDB.com. The movie could produce total domestic sales of $265 million in its theatrical run, according to BoxOffice.com. The preceding film in the series, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opened with $97.9 million in June 2011, and grossed $352.4 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo.

Age of Extinction, which opened in China at the same time as its domestic debut, may draw a significant amount of its box-office sales from Asia. Dark of the Moon had the second-biggest opening weekend for a U.S. film in China, pulling in $56 million, and ending with total sales of $165.1 million. Early estimates show the new film bringing in about $90 million in China, Rentrak said.

The almost $10 million in ticket sales to view the film on Imax screens in China more than doubled the previous record held by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, according to Imax.

"Keeping in mind the staggering growth of the Chinese box office since then, expectations are high for this film," Contrino said.

The new movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg for the first time in the series, also features Chinese actors as Paramount seeks to increase the appeal of the series in the country.

"Adding Mark Wahlberg to the mix is a very smart move," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at Rentrak. "It added new blood into the franchise and new excitement."

Age of Extinction will open in South America and Western Europe toward the end of soccer's World Cup (July 13) to avoid competing with the tournament for viewers.

The new movie, the fourth in the series, is again directed by Michael Bay. The film picks up with the battling robots that convert into cars and trucks. Wahlberg stars as Cade Yeager, a car mechanic, who, with his daughter Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz, makes a discovery that brings the Autobots and government officials down on them.

The film garnered only a 15 percent positive rating with critics on Rottentomatoes.com, while 69 percent of audiences said it was OK, according to the review aggregator.

"Two hours and 46 minutes of pulverized architecture is a lot to endure," A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times. "One of the action sequences reminds you what these movies are really about: a boy at play, reveling in the creative and destructive power, and the glorious uselessness, of his own imagination."

Among returning movies, Columbia Pictures' cop comedy sequel 22 Jump Street collected $15.8 million to place second in its third weekend. How to Train Your Dragon 2, from DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. collected $13.2 million to place third in its third weekend. Think Like a Man Too, a comedy starring Kevin Hart, collected $10.3 million to place fourth for Columbia in its second weekend.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films fell 5.9 percent, to $169.7 million, from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $5.19 billion, a decrease of 0.9 percent from the same period in 2013.

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