With Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns poised to lead the pack at the box office this weekend, Bumblebee is projected to score the lowest opening weekend in the Transformers film franchise. Dating back to the 2007 original, the Transformers series has always been a reliable draw for Paramount, but recently it hasn't been as sure of a thing. Michael Bay's The Last Knight, which came out last summer, was the property's first installment to underwhelm commercially. It posted a franchise worst $605.4 million, indicating audiences were beginning to tire of Michael Bay's approach to the robots in disguise.
Paramount's in the process of formulating a new strategy for their cash cow moving forward, and there was hope Bumblebee would be a step in the right direction. It is far and away the best-reviewed entry in the franchise to date, with many critics praising it for its emotion and heartfelt story. One would imagine that word-of-mouth would give Bumblebee's prospects a significant boost, but it looks like it's going to come up short in the highly-competitive Christmas weekend frame.
According to Box Office Pro, Bumblebee is estimated to make $22 million domestically in its first three days. That's within the initial projections from October, which pegged the film for a debut between $15-25 million. Still, this is hardly an ideal showing for Paramount. Case in point: Aquaman was once projected to make as much as $60 million this weekend, but now that's up to $82 million. The latest DC film is expected to bring in $120 million during the extended Christmas weekend.
With this being the first December since 2014 without a new Star Wars movie, several studios looked to capitalize on the lucrative holiday season by releasing major tentpoles this month. Bumblebee not only has to deal with Aquaman, but also Mary Poppins Returns and holdover Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (which should have strong legs due to its critical acclaim). Even though all of these properties have their respective fan bases that will turn out no matter what, there's only so much money to go around when it comes to general, mainstream audiences. One of the Christmas releases was bound to trail the rest, and it looks like that unfortunate distinction will fall to Bumblebee. While both the DCEU and Transformers are coming off poor outings (Justice League and The Last Knight), people seem more willing to accept DC again - possibly because Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry was a fan-favorite aspect of the team-up and now takes center stage.
The saving grace for Paramount is that compared to the other Transformers movies, Bumblebee was relatively cheap to make with a budget between $100-137 million. This means it doesn't need to rewrite the record books to turn a profit, but it definitely has its work cut out for it. Aquaman is already making a killing overseas and Mary Poppins Returns should bring in around $50 million domestically by the time we're past Christmas. Paramount wants to keep their big franchise going, but if Bumblebee doesn't do well, they may have to rethink things again.
Source: Box Office Pro
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018