“Transformers: Age of Extinction” stampeded into theaters on Thursday, racking up $8.75 million from evening showings, according to studio estimates.
The film screened at approximately 2,990 locations in the U.S. starting at 9 p.m., with Imax representing $1.4 million of that estimate.
It’s a big number, but it’s also a new low for the franchise in terms of late-night results. The most recent film in the series, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” earned $13.5 million from late-night showings, while the second installment, 2009′s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” snagged a series-leading $16.6 million from midnight showings. The previous low-water mark was 2007’s “Transformers,” which earned $8.8 million from its preview and midnight screenings.
Paramount compared the late-night results with a number of recent Thursday releases such as the $9.3 million that “Godzilla” brought in and the $10.3 million start for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” both of which began showings earlier in the evening.
Internationally, the film is shaping up to be a juggernaut, racking up $30 million in foreign territories, including setting a record in China with an estimated $3.5 million debut on Thursday.
It also scored a huge $5.5 million debut in Russia and the biggest opening day of all time in Taiwan with $1.4 million.
The sequel is pitched with an eye toward foreign markets, and will debut in 37 markets internationally this weekend, including such key territories as South Korea and Australia. The biggest coup for Paramount is landing a day-and-date premiere in China. The film went to great lengths to appeal to Chinese audiences, filming portions in such national landmarks as the Great Wall and casting local star Li Bingbing in a significant role.
China is the world’s second-largest film market and was the foreign territory that contributed the most to the bottom line of the previous film in the franchise, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” adding nearly $170 million to its total.
The Paramount Pictures release will now expand to approximately 4,200 locations domestically, 353 of which are Imax, in what analysts project will be a $100 million opening. If it hits that mark it will be the first film to premiere to nine figures this year.
The Michael Bay production is the fourth film in a franchise that has already brought in $2.6 billion globally in ticket receipts. It was filmed for $210 million after rebates. It’s banking on a new cast, led by Mark Wahlberg, to reinvigorate the franchise and possibly inspire a new trilogy, while its previous star, Shia LaBeouf, remains mired in controversy — having been arrested in New York on the film’s opening night.
Reviews for the film have been abysmal, with Rotten Tomatoes awarding it with a 17% rotten rating, but the picture appears to be critic-proof.
For Paramount, big box office will always be preferable to a slot in the Criterion Collection.