‘Transformers’ nabs hefty haul

Early debut shows promise for weekend

In what’s looking to be a bountiful box office transformation, DreamWorks and Paramount’s “Transformers” made an estimated 8.8 million in its early debut Monday evening on 3,050 screens, beginning with the 8 p.m. showing.

Action tentpole, directed by Michael Bay and based on the Hasbro toy robot line, officially opens today on 4,011 screens.

Par is trying to maximize the July 4th holiday frame, since Independence Day itself has never been the biggest movie-going day.

“Transformers” wasn’t the only pic Monday benefiting from the fact that many people aren’t working, or are looking for things to do with their kids over the course of the holiday week.

Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” which debuted at No. 1 over the weekend, made an impressive $7.5 million in ticket sales Monday. Fox’s crowd-pleasing actioner “Live Free or Die Hard” also held up well, making an estimated $4.3 million.

Movie website Fandango said its movie tickets sales were the highest in the company’s 7 year history for a non-holiday Monday. “Transformers,” even though not a sequel, accounted for 79% of all sales.

Paramount and DreamWorks are working hard to manage expectations for “Transformers,” exec produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Shia LaBeouf, although estimates are that the pic will cross the $100 million for the 6½ opening. Just how much higher is the bigger question.

Over Memorial Day, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” also slipped into theaters the night before its official opening, making an estimated $13 million in ticket sales.

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