3 Reasons Why ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Folded at the Domestic Box Office

'Transformers: The Last Knight' Box Office
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

By almost any measure, $69 million is a heck of a lot of money.

Not so for “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which is tracking to make that much in North America during its five-day opening frame. The problem isn’t just that it’s up against a $217 million production budget, although that’s part of it. With China powering an estimated $196.2 million international opening, Paramount and Hasbro are leaning on the film’s global appeal to justify its place in the series.

But the bigger red flag for “Transformers” No. 5 lies in the franchise’s history of opening at around $100 million domestically for the past three installments. This raises a lot of questions, all centering around who or what is to blame for “The Last Knight’s” lower numbers. Here are three reasons why the movie may have underperformed.

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1. Franchise Fatigue Strikes Again

It’s a different verse of the same song. This summer has seen sequel after sequel show signs of weakness at the box office. Save “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which has outgrossed its originator, and you’re left with “Alien: Covenant” (a long-awaited disappointment); “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (the smallest North American opening since the original); “The Mummy” (a domestic flop); and “Cars 3” (another franchise low opening). With even more “Transformers” movies in the works — most likely without director Michael Bay — the studio should hope new blood can save the franchise from further decay.

2. Reviews Killed Word of Mouth

Critics have never exactly loved a “Transformers” movie before, but that hasn’t seemed to hurt the bottom line — could “The Last Knight” signal a change in how word of mouth spreads? The latest installation currently has a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, and follows a trend of movies that have underperformed at the box office that also just might not be all that high-quality. While the studio is seeing an uptick in approval from its youngest demo, a B+ CinemaScore overall is tied for a franchise low. Contrast that with “Wonder Woman,” which received almost unanimously positive reviews and outperformed expectations. Yes, there are many reasons why one might see “Wonder Woman” and not “Transformers,” but the critical consensus is one direct contrast between how each recent film has performed.

3. No Hook to Make it a Must-See

2017 — even more so than 2014 when the last “Transformers” movie was released — is a year of too much. Too many blockbusters crammed into the summer season. Too much television. Too much nonstop cable news covering White House drama. The choice to go see a movie is just that (a conscious decision) and for a movie to drive conversation, and possess the all-powerful quality of being a must-see, it has to offer something different. Michael Bay’s latest seemed to lack a strong enough hook. That’s not to say there wasn’t an attempt. For example, Bay shot nearly the entire movie on Imax 3D cameras, which would seem to create a need to see the movie on the big screen. Also, a trailer for the movie showed Optimus Prime fighting Bumblebee, which sparked a question among fans: Why? But, in the end, the movie has failed to cut through the cultural conversation, or even seem different from the last installment in any significant way. For that reason, among others, audiences decided to take their money elsewhere.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” starring Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, and Laura Haddock is in theaters now.

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  1. grbear72 says:

    I’m not going to see this movie because everyone that reviewed it said that it was a steaming pile of dogs#!t & to be honest so were the 2 before it.. Better things to waste my money on than Bay’s vision of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$…

  2. michael dennis bernier says:

    It is just pointless CGI. Michael Bay cant edit his movies and I think he just gets lost with a pointless story. Just like the dinobot movie he failed to deliver a story and NEVER EVEN SHOWED the dinobots except for the LAST 5 MINUTES. Pointless title. 3 hours of mind numbing action and CGI then the last 5 minutes, Michael Bay tries to cram in 2 hours of what these transformers are. Hed rather show humans running around dodging explosions than actually giving a story of what the knights are and what happened to them. NOPE, last 5 minutes these robots show up and start attacking Optimus Prime. I had no clue who they were or why they showed up at the last minute. And what was the point of the girl being able to hold the staff? How irrelevant was that?? SO WHAT. Why did it matter when any robot was able to hold it? What did they need the girl for?? Just stupid. And why does everyone always seem to figure out the location at the very last second??? They had literally 10000 years to find it but all of a sudden, EVERYONE knew where it was???

  3. Zohaib says:

    I’ll tell you straight why this film is bull. We have too many scenes with the humans and little white girls no one gives a shit about and less transformers scenes. We want to see Optimus Prime and more of the transformers history. The next 2 3 movies should be just pure transformers and no humans if possible. And get rid of Micheal Bay Please!!!

    • Holly Wood says:

      I was beginning to think no one else was EVER going to make this stupid movie article about race and gender. You nailed it, Zohaib. By far the best Transformers was the first, when it was still true to its roots and didn’t have humans in it, not even white ones much less little girls.

      Just to be clear – Meghan Fox was so hot in the original that I don’t count her as human. Also I guess I have to agree with you about Bay.

    • Pat says:

      I suppose if the little girls were anything other than white, they’d’ve had a hit on their hands?
      What a stupid comment.

  4. All Moms says:

    Too much cursing in this movie..more than 42 instances. The child flipping somleone off was not lwhat i lwanted my l10 yearold to see either..
    You have professional witers, find some other expletives to use.. This was not a P G 13 movie.. If you are marketing to kids then make it appropriate for kids.. Many parents wont wven take the kids to a PG13 ,now i see why..

  5. Holly Wood says:

    In a world of measurements and metrics and brand monetization it’s refreshing to read a comments thread where so many of the posts say that the movie isn’t doing well because it isn’t a very good movie.

    And I guess since this is the Internet I have to be clear: I’m not being sarcastic!

  6. RGN says:

    This franchise needed new blood behind the camera after the first film, and for every film thereafter, not unlike the Mission Impossible movies. It shouldn’t take FIVE gargantuan movies to reveal that the robots have existed throughout history, or to set the movie on their own planet and drop the human characters altogether. The humans in Transformers movies are about as necessary and compelling as the humans in Godzilla movies (American OR Japanese). Nothing they do REALLY matters.

    • RGN says:

      And furthermore, sadly, now that Mainland Chinese audiences have signaled their undistinguished taste for big noisy consumerist explosion-fests like this, couple with their own country’s inability to produce any “event” pictures that aren’t shallow, CGI-bloated period costume epics designed not to offend their regime, you can rest assured that we’ll get at least one more Transformers installment that’s essentially a remake of the previous five, just to pander to the almighty communist yuan, rather than a fresh reinvention of the material, something it’s needed since the second/third installment.

  7. Adi says:

    You forgot the most important reason of all:
    The power of Social Network.
    Even fans of the former movies claim on FB & Twitter that this installment is the worst.
    This discouraged lots of people from seeing it in cinemas.

  8. Don F. says:

    This movie STINKS!! No story line! If you’re into watching explosions, if you’re into watching something and just always thinking “wtf” then go ahead and waste your money! I wish I could take back my time and money from this! Do NOT go see this movie!

  9. Hello all, I have been watching Transformers since the original series; I can tell you exactly why this movie is underperforming. This is the same old story that they have told multiple times in different ways. For some reason, the film industry has it in their head that we want to see stories told over and over but just tweak it a bit different every time. The original movie Autobots vs Unicron. and in the recent series of Autobots, you can find this same exact tale told simply without the Quintison. Originality is what this tale lacks, and I for one feel as though I wasted $15.00 going to see a movie that I could have simply turned on Netflix and watched. So you want some advice movie makers, stop retelling the same old origin stories, and bring back originality in movies. Those of us who go to see these superheroes, and trasformer movies do it because we loved the series, and we already know the origin of our hero’s. tell it once and move on with bigger more original stories.

  10. Stephen says:

    The reason it tanked is simply because there was no story to it. The only reason this movie was made was for money. It was totally stupid and there are a lot of us that won’t waste our time and money on stupidity.

  11. Joe says:

    Uh check your figures cause at the end of today Trans-5 will be well over $80 million domesticly. Yes a far cry from the $100 million + in the past Transformer movies but hardly a “death” blow to the franchise smh

    • Holly Wood says:

      Opened weak, death throes now. It would have to gross well over 700M for the studio to even get whole, and that’s NOT counting having to pay all the gross and net players, box office bumps, and residuals also off the gross to at least three unions (probably four).

      But all the arguing about box office isn’t just wrong, it diverts attention from the real point. The movie doesn’t really have to make money. When it does that’s great, but it’s not a movie, it’s a 2 hour commercial for “Transformers – The Ride 3-D” at Universal. And toys.

    • Pat says:

      *domestically
      Honestly, reading through internet message boards never ceases to make me wonder whether ANYBODY in this country ever went to school.

    • Michael Young says:

      It only made $69 million during it’s OPENING….That’s what they compared it to, not the week and a half after it’s opening weekend smh

      idiots….

      • Holly Wood says:

        I understood your post right up to “idiots…” Who are you talking about and what is the idiotic thing they did?

  12. Bring back Meagan fox and Shia because Mark Samberg is really really overrated in this I hated him on this like stick to red movies he’s on everything like leave for awhile

  13. Bryan says:

    None of this is correct.

    1. Franchise fatigue doesn’t exist if it’s a franchise we want to see. These Bay Transformers movies have been for the kids growing up now (who don’t care) not for the Generation X fans who are older and ready to buy gear with our Capital One cards. But we want Generation 1, not this made up Bay crap devised to push toys.

    2. No. Word of mouth was working, trust me, telling people to not see this stupid movie. Content matters, story matters, honor to the core values that make Transformers great matter. The Bay films never had it so of course each one has gotten worse.

    3. No hook? Also wrong. Hollywood forgets what we really want in the end is a good story and characters. Transformers always focuses on the human condition and that’s not where the story is, it’s in the Transformers themselves. Give a movie to Optimus Prime and Megatron alone on some alien world and we’d love it, if the right story was there. These Transformers movies have made serious money, that’s why they make them, but they’ve made money because the Transformers (the original core Generation 1 characters) ARE the hook. All the millennial writers out there tend to forget that.

    I’m against reboots in general but I’d love to see this franchise get one. Let me write the next flick. ;) I could come up with a story better than Bay without breaking a sweat. I could also write better entertainment pieces for Variety. You guys hiring?

  14. A.D. says:

    I liked the movie and it’s people like the author of this article that is destroying box office sales. How about going out and seeing a movie for the fun of it. How about people being their own critic and forming an opinion of their own.

    • EricJ says:

      What, you mean, like half the posters here saying they saw it and thought it was crap and Michael Bay needs to move on like he was going to after the fourth film?
      Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, it’s Seth’s JOB as a Variety columnist to say that the movie tanked domestically. If you’re a fanboy, it’s on your own free time.

  15. Jerry says:

    Wow, sorry people but I liked TF5. Liked the link to the Witwikis’ and King Arthur. Also it anserved questions about where they came from. And their creator–OMG is she going to be in TF6? Hope so.

    • Soonerfan1! says:

      My son and I went and saw TF5 today! We thought it was a great movie! It has a info about the past which we really liked. MY son said this one is his favorite!!

      • Babs@ParaPic.com says:

        Hi Jerry and Soonerfan1!

        Once again, thanks for your hard work posting these positive comments here and elsewhere. Nice work, gentlemen! Completely indistinguishable from the real thing!!!

        Your Paypal transfers are on the way!

        Yay Team Transformers!!!

        Sincerely,

        Babs,
        Motion Picture Marketing Division
        Paramount Pictures Corporation

  16. Spider says:

    I saw this flick on Wednesday. I really don’t think it will make $1 Billion worldwide. This film is just not very good. The sad part is the “Transformers” universe is rich in characters and lore to make a really good franchise, but the writers don’t get it. Paramount needs to fire the ‘so-called’ writer’s room and seriously look for a different director. Michael Bay is good when he wants to be: “The Rock” and “Armageddon” were actually good (my opinion) and I keep hearing, “13 Hours” was good. Of course, taste is subjective…. I believe Bay should just call it a day and turn this franchise over to a, preferably young up-and-coming director with a genuine passion for the source material….The Medieval times and the Nazis were NEVER canon–but, I do understand Paramount’s goal and desire to set up the upcoming, “Bumblebee” spin-off movie.

    • EricJ says:

      Although, there’s “understanding” of Paramount’s ulterior motives, and there’s “approving of it”.
      Think the first-night audience understood a little too MUCH. Except for the story, nobody could understand that.

  17. Damon Tammas says:

    No, ‘reviews’ did not kill word of mouth, people just didn’t want another blatant sequel money grab that didn’t offer anything new. Movie bloggers have got to realize that they don’t have the power they think they have, which has been shown time and time again as they bash movies that go on to make billions of dollars. ‘Critics’ have never liked this franchise, still made billions. Didn’t like the YA movies, didn’t like Batman DC, Suicide Squad – still billions in the bank. We realize you’re in the pocket of the studios now (especially Marvel’s deep deep pockets) , and we listen to our own reliable sources. Snarky reviews, questionable budget reporting and condescending attitude from some vague blogger don’t influence me where to drop my 20 bucks.

    • Hanime says:

      No. You should read the article again as you may be missing the point. Reviews play a big role, and they do have their limits–they do affect moviegoers’ conscious decisions to go to the theaters domestically. Many of these moviegoers don’t care about how these dumb movies are making billions. If it’s trash, it’s trash! They won’t go see the next sequel. That’s it. Then we start seeing a trend; the franchise is now relying heavily on international profit, while domestically, it failed to meet its profit goal.

  18. ninvoid99 says:

    Easy, it’s because it sucked. Michael Bay is the worst filmmaker working today. He hasn’t made anything watchable since The Rock.

  19. anonymous says:

    It flopped for one simple reason, it’s really a bad film.

  20. Rudy Mario says:

    The not so bright author of this article gets one reason right (sequel fatigue) and misses other vital reasons. The main being the alleged star whose so called acting is the same in every movie that he has been plus the director who is pretty much washed out.

  21. Mark Zinan says:

    Sequel and Prequel Fatigue. Enough is enough.

  22. Cuthbert says:

    No one wanted Transformers 4, so it is no surprise that even less wanted 5, with a horrid plot.

  23. Victor says:

    I like TF that’s why I went to the movies, but the handling and direction left a lot to be desired. This last movie is garbage and I told everone such. It appeared that a 5th grader wrote it, basically it really sucked. I’m really pissed at what I paid for my ticket, IMAX thanks!

  24. Andy Martin says:

    Bring Megan Fox back, she was the only reason to buy a ticket to watch the movies in the first place.

  25. EricJ says:

    4: We’re Not Fooled, Paramount: Most of this summer’s car-pileup of surprise big-budget wrecks, coming immediately upon Universal’s hopes for a “Dark Universe” with The Mummy, Warner’s “re-imagining” of King Arthur, and Disney’s “New Final-Adventure Trilogy” with Pirates 5, all made the mistake of franchise-strategizing three or six films over the next few years when they should have looked more carefully at the audience tracking for the FIRST one in a month.
    Even the hype articles for TF5 blared about all the -next- movies we were going to get in Paramount’s “Hasbro Universe”, starting with the Bumblebee solo movie no one asked for, and in all three cases, audiences felt that if they didn’t ASK for it, why should they PAY for it? As you can see, they didn’t find any compelling answer to that question.

    5: We NEVER Liked You, Michael: From interviews, it’s pretty clear that Bay was ready to give up the franchise after TF4, but again, Paramount had House-Brand Franchise on its mind, and didn’t want to take chances on another director…And ended up hiring back the same white-elephant that had already weighed down the franchise from the beginning, just because the studio was terrified of doing anything -different- that might harm their strategic cash-cow on its first new big mission.
    And like Warner recently discovering that they can make good and popular DC Comics movies if they kick Zack Snyder out the door, sometimes it’s a good thing to listen to your audiences, and make a few changes where changes are necessary.

    6: Even the Fans Who LIKED the Movies Didn’t Like It!: The general word-of-mouth from core TF fans this time out was “Oh. Dear. Gods.” A female Mummy-Transformer. Shia LaBeouf’s family in the first movies was descended from Merlin. Anthony Hopkins says “Dude”.
    The most frequently used phrase from critics–even the “good” Internet fan-critics–was “Incomprehensible gibberish”. At this point, fans were less interested in putting Michael Bay in the unemployment line, and more interested in putting him in a straitjacket. When Mark Wahlberg in interviews talked about how openly -happy- he was to be leaving the series from here on in, that was a big red flag before opening..

    Me, I’m more inclined to believe Reason #4 as the big reason, since I don’t have as much experience with Reason #6, and I’m trying to block all personal memories of Reason #5.

  26. Kyle says:

    They also tied the Transformers mythology to King Arthur and nobody in America cares about King Arthur as Legend of the Sword also flopped.

  27. cadavra says:

    Sixty years ago, the dominant form of entertainment in movies and TV was the western. There were so many on the tube that for a time they even had a separate category at the Emmys. Eventually, people grew tired of watching them and the genre essentially died. We’re now seeing the same thing with all these comic book and sci-fi/fantasy films: the repetition is setting in, and given the low threshold of boredom for most kids, I predict that by 2020 they’ll be heading for Boot Hill as well.

    • Rex the Wonder Dog says:

      With Westerns it was more of a case of their demographics dwindling. When Westerns first became popular the United States was an agrarian society. But as America became more urbanized people could relate more to police procedurals. Hence the abundance of cops shows on TV now. I am not sure what kind of demographic shift would make superheroes unpopular, as we have had superheros movies going all the way back to the 1940s with the Superman radio program and the Superman and Batman movie serials. And TV shows starting with the Adventures of Superman back in the 1950s.

      • cadavra says:

        That’s an intriguing theory and certainly has merit. But it’s not the whole story. War movies and miniseries continue to be made (“Dunkirk” is coming next month, and it’s not even the first Dunkirk movie this year), and certainly sword-and-sandal epics are as popular as ever (hey there, “Game of Thrones”). I still think the primary reason westerns went boots up was the marketplace became saturated and people just simply burned out on them, and I believe eventually the same will happen with superheroes and such, though not permanently. (Don’t forget there were gaps of 23 years between Batman movies and 19 between Supermans.)

    • Wayne says:

      I think it’s more along mg the lines of many of these not being good.

      • cadavra says:

        A fair point, but as Captain Kirk once noted, too much of anything isn’t necessarily a good thing.

  28. paully says:

    Michael Bay movies are terrible (all those stupid quick cuts like a 1980’s MTV music video) X the played out Transformers movies (made as a export commodity).. Just nobody let Bay get his hand on the Japanese National Treasure “Evangelion” please please..

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