ZAMM.COM: 'Transformer' Time

By Martin Grove,

Transformers time: The last weekend in June looks like it should be a mid-summer night's dream at the multiplexes given the strong tracking we're seeing for Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Paramount and Hasbro's latest 3D sci-fi action adventure episode in their lucrative Transformers franchise opens June 27 at about 4,000 theatres. Directed by Michael Bay, who directed the first three episodes, it stars Mark Whalberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor.

Age of Extinction is tracking in double digits as an overall first choice for moviegoers to see, It's doing best and almost equally well with men under and over 25. Moreover, it's also showing double digit scores from women under and over 25. That should translate into box office fireworks not only to end June, but to brighten the multiplex skies over July Fourth weekend.

In Age of Extinction, a group of powerbrokers and scientists trying to learn from past Transformer incursions push technology beyond their control. Meanwhile, an ancient, powerful Transformer menace sets his sights on Earth.

The franchise's last episode, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opened June 29, 2011 via Paramount and DreamWorks to $97.9 million and went on to gross $352.4 million domestically.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen arrived June 24, 2009 via Paramount and DreamWorks to $109 million and did $402.1 million domestically.

The first Transformers episode hit theatres July 3, 2007 via Paramount and DreamWorks with $70.5 million and ended up doing $319.2 million domestically.

All told, the series first three episodes grossed about $1.1 billion in domestic theatres. Considering how well it's tracking, Age of Extinction should hold its own within the franchise. Indeed, Hollywood handicappers are buzzing about an opening weekend that could be in the area of $100 million. That would give the franchise a big boost at the right time since Bay's already said that Age of Extinction is intended to launch a second trilogy of Transformers episodes. Whether Bay, himself, will direct the next two episodes has not yet been determined.

Also in Age of Extinction's favor is that boxoffice business in general has been quite good the past few months. Overall, the gross for this year to date is about $5 billion, just slightly ahead of this time last year. Looking at last weekend's chart, there are eight films now in the Top 15 that have grossed $100 million (or thereabouts) or more. And half of those titles have cracked $200 million or are closing in on it.

The biggest of that bunch is X-Men: Days of Future Past with $216.8 million after five weeks. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is right behind it with $199.5 million after eight weeks. Godzilla's third with $194.9 million after six weeks. And Maleficent is fourth with $186 million after four weeks.

The $100 million club is led by Neighbors with $145.7 million after seven weeks. 22 Jump Street is second with $111.5 million after two weeks. The Fault in Our Stars ranks third with $98.7 million after three weeks. And How to Train Your Dragon 2 is fourth with $95.2 million after two weeks.

Speaking of dragons, Age of Extinction's world premiere was held in Hong Kong last week, after which the Grammy Award-winning rock band Imagine Dragons gave a private concert featuring their first live performance of the movie's theme song Battle Cry by Steve Jablonsky, whose many composing credits include Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Bottom line: Age of Extinction should have no trouble keeping the Transformers franchise ball rolling. The series' fifth title is now in pre-production with Bay to direct from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, whose writing credits include the episodes Age of Extinction (sole credit), Revenge of the Fallen (shared credit with Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman) and Dark of the Moon (sole credit).

Earlier this month, Paramount announced its lineup for 2015 and '16 and Transformers 5 was high on the '16 list. Previously, it wasn't expected until 2017. But with Age of Extinction tracking well and heading for a strong launch, getting T5 into theatres sooner is a great idea.

Paramount's 2015 and '16 rosters both look hot, by the way. Both years' slates are driven by well established franchises or sequels to films that showed international strength, which is definitely the name of the game in Hollywood today. For '15 we can look forward to: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, 
Hot Tub Time Machine 2,The Gambl
 Mission: Impossible 5,
 Project Almanac,
Terminator: Genesis and
 Friday the 13th 3D.

The studio's 2016 lineup includes: Transformers 5,
 GI Joe 3, Star Trek 3, 
Hansel and Gretel 2, 
Paranormal Activity 5, 
Ben Hur and
Beverly Hills Cop 4.

Adding T5 to the mix means the summer of '16 will now be even bigger than it was already shaping up to be. Already on deck were such titles as X-Men: Apocalypse, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America 3 and Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo. On top of that, the next episode in The Bourne Legacy was recently moved from its original August 2015 to July of '16.

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