LOS ANGELES — “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is in no need of WD-40. The fourth installment of director Michael Bay’s franchise greased a creaky summer box office and became the first movie of 2014 to earn at least $100 million in the U.S. and Canada in its first weekend, according to estimates from its distributor.
Not counting for inflation, “Age of Extinction’s” $100 million opening bested the last film in the series, 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which had a $97.9 million debut.
Paramount’s visual effects-heavy blockbuster, which cost an Optimus Prime-sized $210 million to make, got off to a strong start by pulling in $41.6 million on Friday. The crowds seemed to dig the action-fest: The flick earned a grade of A minus from audience polling firm CinemaScore after receiving dismal reviews from critics.
The stats indicate that a switch in leading men — Mark Wahlberg took center stage, replacing Shia LaBeouf — was of no concern for moviegoers. It certainly worked out for Wahlberg, who landed the biggest opening of his career by playing a mechanic who discovers that a run-down truck is actually a robot.
“I think it’s safe to say that Michael Bay taking an extra year off to relaunch the franchise couldn’t have gone better,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. “And Mark was a fresh addition to the cast.”
Moore also boasted about Paramount’s decision to co-produce with a pair of Chinese studios, Jiaflix Enterprises and China Movie Channel. The move may have helped the film overseas, where it opened in major markets including China, Russia and Australia and earned $201.3 million internationally. In China alone, the film brought in $90 million for the weekend, making it the country’s biggest opening for a foreign film ever.
“Age of Extinction” will get a post-World Cup roll-out in Latin America and elsewhere in Europe.
“I think it all worked out incredibly well,” Moore said. The film’s plot also took some of its action to China, with scenes shot on the Chinese mainland and featuring Chinese actors Li Bingbing and Han Geng.
“If other studios aren’t paying attention to what Paramount did with China now, they will and they should soon,” said Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax. The film took in an estimated $25 million globally from Friday through Sunday on only 619 Imax screens. The Imax results in China more than doubled the previous record, with a three-day gross of more than $10 million, besting “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in 2013 with $4.55 million.
All that stainless steel scared off new competitors, with no other major releases nationwide over the weekend — leaving Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to bask in the robot shadows.
The actors’ new buddy comedy, “22 Jump Street,” remained strong in its third week, holding down the No. 2 spot for Sony with an estimated $15.4 million in the U.S. and Canada. That brings its three-week total to $139.8 million.
Meanwhile, Sony’s No. 1 film last week, “Think Like a Man Too,” dropped 64 percent to fourth place. Its $10.4 million put it behind DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” in third place with $13.1 million in the Fox-distributed film’s third week.
Disney’s “Maleficent” continues to perform wickedly well. The film starring Angelina Jolie took in $8.2 million, allowing it to grab the golden apple, the $200 million benchmark. That left the Clint Eastwood-directed adaptation of the Tony-winning musical “Jersey Boys” to sing backup, falling to No. 6 in its second week with $7.6 million.