‘Transformers’ dominates box office

Robots set seven-day record

Transformation complete.

Quickly rising to become a summer hit, DreamWorks and Paramount’s robot actioner “Transformers” scored the best seven-day showing for a nonsequel in history, clobbering previous record holder “Spider-Man.”

Directed by Michael Bay, “Transformers” closed out its 6½-day holiday opening with an estimated domestic take of $152.5 million from 4,011 runs and international B.O. of $93.6 million from 29 markets for a worldwide cume of $246.1 million. Domestic opening is the biggest ever for both Par and DreamWorks for a live-action title.

The boffo perf will likely usher in a new film franchise and comes none too soon for Brad Grey’s Paramount, which is in sore need of a live-action franchise, having sent “Mission: Impossi-ble” star Tom Cruise packing last year. Live-action franchise would also mark the first for DreamWorks. Studios have a sequel option on “Transformers” star Shia LaBeouf.

Tentpole, which took $67.6 million over the weekend, was hardly the only movie enjoying the benefits of an unusually busy July Fourth holidaystretch.

Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” continued to bubble away, coming in No. 2 in its second weekend with another $29 million over the frame from 3,940 screens for a total take of $109.5 million. Pic declined 38% in its second weekend.

Fox’s “Live Free or Die Hard” also stayed buff, nabbing the No. 3 spot with an estimated $17.4 million from 3,411 screens for a total of $84.1 million. Pic dipped 48% from the previous weekend.

No. 4 was Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures’ laffer “License to Wed,” which brought in $17.8 million from 2,604 engagements over six days, in line with the studio’s expecta-tions. Weekend take was $10.4 million.

Michael Moore’s holdover docu “Sicko” continued its healthy run over the weekend and came in at No. 9. Pic, which expanded to 702 screens, drew $3.6 million and a healthy per-screen average of $5,199. Cume is $11.5 million.

New specialty films “Rescue Dawn,” “Introducing the Dwights” and “Joshua” also performed well enough in limited bows over the weekend to justify expansion plans.

Behind the scenes on Sunday, Par and DreamWorks were sharing the “Transformers” glow. Pic marks the third box office hit DreamWorks has delivered this year, making Par’s purchase of DreamWorks even sweeter.

“All parts came together like the Transformer robots. The ‘bots put butts in the seats,” DreamWorks spokesmanMarvin Levy said.

“The filmmakers delivered a perfect summer movie that was original and fun. Paramount marketing and distribution did a great job in getting it out there,” Levy said.

Sunday, both studios paraded the fact that “Transformers,” based on the Hasbro toy robot line, was a four-quadrant pleaser, disabusing skeptics of the notion that the pic wouldn’t play to women or that only fans of the toy line would be interested.

In fact, moms were a strong demo, according to Paramount worldwide and marketing prexy Rob Moore and “Transformers” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

“To launch an original tentpole is something the company hasn’t done in a long time, especially one without an established star,” Moore said, adding that the strength of “Transformers” overseas is a victory for the studio’s new international distrib operation.

“Transformers,” which Bay recently said cost $150 million to make, is expected to easily climb well above the $200 million mark domestically. Penned by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtz-man, pic was produced by Tom DeSanto and Don Murphy.

Movie, which opened on the evening of July 2, made $84.9 million in its first five days, including a record-breaking July 4 take of $29 million –the most a movie has ever made on the holi-day itself, which isn’t generally thought of as a big moviegoing day.

This year, the holiday week was busy across the board at theaters. Box office tally for the week was up a whopping 29% over the same frame last year — $346.2 million vs. $268.7 million.

Over the weekend, the estimated box office cume for the top 10 pics was $156 million, down more than 20% from the same frame last year, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” opened at $135.6 million, bringing the overall box office take for the top 10 pics to $207 million. Still, distribs noted the healthy appetite for all sorts of pics, not just “Transformers.” In many cases, appetites were fueled by strong word of mouth, as in the cases of “Ratatouille” and “Sicko.”

Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane said he expects “Ratatouille” to outpace “Cars,” the previous Pixar title, in the next two weeks.

“This is turning out to be a heck of a good summer,” Viane said. “The 10-day holiday window paid off really well.”

Similarly, the Weinstein Co.’s Harvey Weinstein said he expected “Sicko” to continue to profit from strong buzz.

“After 10 days in national release, ‘Sicko’ has brought in $11.5 million, well ahead of Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine,’ which took eight weeks to get to the same point,” Weinstein said.

Other niche films likewise had solid showings during the holiday frame.

MGM’s “Rescue Dawn,” directed by Werner Herzog, scored a per-screen average of $17,333 over the weekend from six screens in Gotham and Los Angeles for a total take of $104,000. Film, which opened July 4, expands by an additional 25 screens in the country’s top 10 markets Friday.

Warner Independent’s “Introducing the Dwights” took in $31,000 from four screens in Gotham and L.A. over the weekend for a five-day opening of $46,000 and a per-screen average of $11,500. Title expands to 41 runs Friday.

Fox Searchlight’s “Joshua,” which opened Friday on six screens in L.A. and New York, posted a per-screen average of $8,514 and total receipts of $51,086. Pic expands this weekend by an additional 150 screens in 20 cities on Friday.

Failing to gain much traction in its bid to shore up results, Paramount Vantage’s “A Mighty Heart” had a per-screen average of $983 as it reduced the number of screens from more than 1,350 to 651. Pic made an estimated $639,727 over the weekend for a new total of $8.4 million.

Rounding out the top 10 over the weekend were holdovers “Evan Almighty,” at No. 5; Dimension and MGM’s “1408,” at No. 6; U’s laffer “Knocked Up,” No. 7; Fox’s “Fantastic Four,” No. 8; and Warner Bros. “Ocean’s Thirteen,” No. 10.

The box office heatwave isn’t expected to fade anytime soon: “Transformers” and company will get fierce competition with Wednesday’s release of Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

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