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Box Office: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Rules with $100 Mil

Transformers: Age of Extinction” dominated the global box office this weekend, debuting to an estimated $100 million in the U.S. and $301.3 million worldwide, while announcing itself as a box office blockbuster in a summer defined by welterweights.

Both the domestic and international figures represent high-water marks for the year and set the film up for what promises to be a competitive Fourth of July holiday.

“This is the summer’s best chance at a $1 billion dollar film and after this weekend it’s well on its way to getting to that point” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

Backed by Paramount Pictures, the Michael Bay production cost $210 million after rebates, while trading in the troubled star of the original films, Shia LaBeouf, for the more press-friendly Mark Wahlberg, a move that seemed to extend the life of the $2.6 billion-grossing series.

“All of the new elements worked out great,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. “Mark Wahlberg has taken on the leadership of the franchise and Michael [Bay] has re-energized this franchise.”

Stateside, the film unspooled at over 4,233 locations, more than 350 of them boasting Imax. The wide-screen format contributed a total $10.7 million to the picture’s domestic receipts, with other premium large formats from AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and Regal generating a healthy $7 million in receipts.

So far, the film pulled in $41.6 million on Friday and dropped slightly to  $32.1 million on Saturday.

Overseas, the picture is shaping up to be a monster, with the film hitting $201.3 million across 37 markets internationally including such territories as South Korea and Russia.  Among the highlights, the film scored the biggest opening weekend of all-time in Hong Kong with $4.8 million, captured $8.3 million in Taiwan and  nabbed a robust $10 million debut in Australia.

But the big story was China, where Paramount’s decision to film parts of the production throughout the People’s Republic, while enlisting local talent like Li Bingbing and an array of Chinese sponsors paid off with the biggest opening weekend in the country’s history, an astounding $90 million debut.

In Imax showings, the picture delivered $10 million in China, more than double its previous record of $4.5 million for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

“This franchise is in the bullseye for what the Chinese market seems to like,” said Greg Foster, chairman and president of Imax Entertainment. “It’s a big action movie with iconic characters and it’s all beautifully delivered.”

The results are also notable because the film was saddled with a nearly three-hour run time, an intimidating proposition for those who like their mass destruction in easily digestible form, and the critical reaction was frosty. Domestic audiences, who were more than 60% male, disagreed with reviewers, handing the film an A- CinemaScore.

Given that reaction, Moore said he predicts that the film will play well into Independence Day.

“These movies have traditionally played over the Fourth of July holiday,” he said. “There’s lots of generational viewing, with parents watching them with their kids, so it feels like we should have a great ten or eleven days.”

In non-giant robot related news, “22 Jump Street” surpassed the total domestic run of its predecessor in its third week of release, hitting $140 million cumulatively, making a “23 Jump Street” look like a fait accompli. It earned $15.4 million, good enough for a second-place finish in a weekend in which “Transformers: Age of Extinction” sucked the air out of the box office.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” slid into third place with a $13.1 million haul, while last weekend’s champ, “Think Like a Man Too” had a steep drop off of 65%, capturing the fourth slot with $10.4 million. “Maleficent” rounded out the top five with $8.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $201.8 million.

Among other milestones, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” surpassed $200 million domestically, although after nearly two months in theaters, it hit that figure later in its lifespan than Sony Pictures would have liked.

Overall the stateside box office was down about 8% from the previous year, a weekend that saw the release of “The Heat” and the continued dominance of “Monsters University.”

In limited release, Bong Joon-ho’s long-delayed “Snowpiercer” finally scored a domestic release with the Radius-TWC production amassing $162,127 across eight screens, while The Weinstein Company’s “Begin Again” hit the right note with a $148,300 debut in just five locations. The musical comedy stars Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley and sparked a bidding war at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. The Weinstein Company will expand it to 175 theaters next weekend and will put the film in more than 500 by July 11.

“It’s the perfect date movie and it’s counter to what’s out there in the marketplace,” said Erik Lomis, The Weinstein’s Company’s head of theatrical distribution. “It’s going to have strong legs and lay in there and just play for a long time.”

Also worth noting, A24’s abortion-centered comedy “Obvious Child” expanded into 196 theaters grossing $555,000 and bringing its total to $1.2 million, while Open Road’s breakout hit “Chef” spent its sixth week in the top ten, adding $1.6 million to its nearly $20 million bounty.

As for “Transformers 5,” Paramount isn’t ruling it out, but Moore insists that nothing is currently in the works.

“As long as Michael Bay, working with Steven Spielberg, the producer on the films, keep developing new, fresh ideas that excite them creatively, we’re happy to keep financing them,” he said.

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