With its theatrical premiere right around the corner, Transformers: The Last Knight is projected to post the lowest five-day start domestically in the history of the franchise. Director Michael Bay first brought the robots in disguise to the big screen 10 years ago, and the property has been a reliable cash cow for Paramount ever since. Despite seeing diminishing returns in the U.S. over the past few installments, interest in Transformers remains very high globally. Case in point: Age of Extinction, the most recent entry, grossed $1.1 billion worldwide, virtually matching the numbers of 2011's Dark of the Moon.
Paramount has high hopes for The Last Knight, positioning it as a "launching board" of sorts for future movies. Following the current trend of shared cinematic universes, the studio has assembled a writers' room to piece together various sequels and spinoffs. They need Last Knight to be a monster hit, but it looks like they're going to have to rely more on the foreign countries to turn the profits they want in order to keep the train rolling.
According to THR, Transformers 5 is expected to earn somewhere between $70 - 75 million in its first five days (it opens on Wednesday, June 21). That figure would be well below the previous debuts of the series, including $100+ million opening weekends from Revenge of the Fallen and Age of Extinction. It looks poised to be the latest tentpole that will arguably disappoint at the American box office this summer, lending more credence to the earlier reports of 2017 being the worst summer commercially for Hollywood since 2007. Franchise fatigue seems to have settled in for certain titles.
Since The Last Knight should have an uphill climb in the States, Paramount will be hoping for a strong showing overseas. Transformers has always done well internationally, and there's little reason to suspect things will be different this time around. Transformers is in a similar position to another fifth installment of a long-running franchise - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Jack Sparrow's latest misadventure has earned a paltry $150 million domestically, but the film managed to become successful thanks to its $651.2 million worldwide total. Granted, that figure is considerably lower than some of its predecessors, but it illustrates the power of the global box office and how important it can be. When green-lighting projects, executives tend to think in terms of how it will play to all audiences, and not just domestically.
Paramount appears confident their evolving Transformers franchise will connect with viewers, as they have already scheduled a Bumblebee spinoff for June 2018 and have several other films coming through the pipeline. It'll be interesting to see how The Last Knight holds up over the course of its run, especially with some other high-profile blockbusters on the horizon in July. There's only so much money to go around, so not every mega franchise can churn out hit after hit. Hopefully for Optimus Prime and friends, there's still some life left in Transformers.
- Transformers 5/Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) release date: Jun 21, 2017
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018