International Markets to the Rescue?
As a general rule of thumb, a film needs to gross double its production budget in order to recoup all its costs (including marketing). The Last Knight was made for $217 million, meaning the benchmark is set at $434 million, and anything beyond that is profit. Currently, Transformers 5 has grossed $496.5 million globally, theoretically putting the project $62.5 million in the black. On one hand, that's good news for Paramount since they aren't losing money on this endeavor. That being said, The Last Knight is not going to reach the heights of the previous movies, so whatever profit it ultimately turns will be a shell of the former glory. For instance, Age of Extinction boasted a budget of $210 million and grossed $1.1 billion worldwide. That performance was good enough for a profit of $680 million - enough to bankroll the production of three more Transformers movies. The Last Knight isn't going to get anywhere near that ballpark.
Transformers 5 has already debuted in most countries, with premieres in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Israel, Spain, and Japan still to come. That gives the film seven more markets to hit, but none of those are considered a hotbed for the film industry. Every little bit helps, or course, but it's unlikely the combined audiences of these aforementioned nations move the needle in a positive direction. During Age of Extinction's run, they collectively brought in approximately $111.9 million. When added to Last Knight's current global total, that would edge the gross up to $608.4 million, which is still a far cry from the last installments (and, odds are, the figures won't be identical for Last Knight). China, which was responsible for $320 million of the fourth film's haul, may not be the saving grace it once was. The Last Knight took a massive 82 percent Friday-to-Friday drop, with estimates suggesting it will bring in $240 million from Chinese theaters when it's all said and done.
So, at first glance, this means technically The Last Knight was successful. Digging below the surface, however, some cracks are starting to show. Whether one looks only at domestic numbers or the worldwide figures, Transformers 5 is going to represent a new low. At this point, Last Knight can only hope to best the $709.7 million global haul the original movie posted 10 years ago. If it can't reach that, it would be a stunning development because Transformers 5 had the added benefit of a decade of inflation, plus IMAX 3D premiums. Paramount, which has big things planned for the franchise, cannot be pleased with the way things turned out. They were probably hoping for something a little more as they ushered in a new era. Instead, they're in a position where they have to figure things out to keep the property viable.
The silver lining for Paramount is that The Last Knight was not a box office catastrophe - like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Transformers still has a large enough following that this isn't a death blow for a usually-reliable blockbuster series. Moving forward, the biggest priority will be improving the quality of the films themselves, since this summer has shown audiences will flock to a tentpole that's well-received. For those tired of Bay's trademark style, Bumblebee could be a nice change-of-pace, as it marks the first time a Transformers film is helmed by a different director. Mixing things up and allowing new blood to play in the sandbox might reinvigorate the brand, giving it the shot in the arm it needs.
Regardless of how Bumblebee turns out, however, Paramount would be wise to pump on the brakes and take things slowly before green lighting a bevy of Transformers films. A smart strategy could be to take things one movie at a time and evaluate what they have once Bumblebee opens next summer. The first Transformers spinoff comes out during a murderer's row stretch that includes Han Solo, Deadpool 2, The Incredibles 2, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, so it will have its work cut out for it to make an impression at the box office. If viewers are beginning to lose interest in the main storyline, it's no guarantee an off-shoot will drum up excitement. Transformers is successful, just not as much as it used to be - which puts the studio in a fascinating position.
Source: Box Office Mojo
- Transformers 5/Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) release date: Jun 21, 2017
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018