Transformers: the Last Knight brought in a franchise low in its North American debut this weekend, but the fifth entry in the franchise impressed internationally, earning $265 million in its first five days.
International box office gross has become more and more crucial to the success of major blockbusters over the past half-decade or so, in particular the rapidly growing film market in China. The Transformers franchise has been at the forefront of this new internationally focused trend, as 2014’s Age of Extinction earned more than billion dollars worldwide despite posting a then-franchise-low $245 million in the United States. Out of that $1.1 billion dollar gross, 78 percent came from international markets, with a massive $320 million coming from China alone.
If this weekend is any indication, Transformers: the Last Knight’s box office lifespan is going to follow a similar trajectory. The supposed final Michael Bay/Mark Wahlberg entry in the franchise opened to a series low $45.3 million for the three-day weekend, pushing the film’s five day total to only $69.2 million. Even opening in over 4,000 theaters and over a thousand IMAX 3D screens, that trails the three-day $70 million opening of the original Transformers in 2007.
Transformers: The Last Knight was the second film in the franchise to open on a Wednesday, with 2011’s Dark of the Moon opening to over $160 million in the same amount of time. That film did have the benefit of opening over Fourth of July weekend, whereas The Last Knight won’t being able to reap any benefits of the holiday until its second weekend. Still, with big competition coming from Despicable Me 3 and The House, it would be shocking if the Last Knight had a phenomenal hold.
As with Age of Extinction, the real money for the Last Knight will be made overseas, where the film opened to an excellent $196.2 million in 41 markets. China alone earned the film $123.4 million in about 7,200 theaters across the country, which is better than Age of Extinction’s opening there by over $30 million. It also broke opening records for the franchise in Indonesia, Ukraine and Turkey, and has yet to open in major countries like Brazil, Mexico and Japan.
Paramount and the creative team behind the last two films in the Transformers franchise have begun to understand the value of catering to international audiences, in particular that Chinese market. The last forty-five minutes of Age of Extinction takes place in China, and that sequence is packed with product placement for Chinese products, prominent Chinese supporting characters, and unsubtle references to the country’s government. The Last Knight doesn’t feature any set pieces in the country, but is co-financed by major Chinese companies Huahua Media and Weying Galaxy. These companies earn a share of The Last Knight’s revenue for helping Paramount market the film to the international audience, a trend that has now proved bountiful for the franchise and will mostly likely help them keep afloat despite the diminishing domestic returns.
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