Monday, August 28, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight Concludes US Box Office Run

Its official, outside of the appearing soon at the super cheap old theaters, Transformers: The Last Knight has concluded its box office run in the United States. I think there are a few territories left to go but none of them major enough to move the box office total enough to matter from a business making decision perspective for Hasbro and Paramount. After the first weekend I made a prediction for the film's box office: "...an estimated worldwide take by the time the movie leaves theaters of $150M US + $225M China + $250M Rest of world = $625M." Surprising myself I pretty much nailed it with a slight over estimation of the US box office take. According to Box Office Mojo the total comes to $130.2M US + $228.8M China + $245 Rest of world = $604M. As I said before, while most movies would love this total, Hasbro and Paramount did not spend $217M + who knows in other expenses (advertising, etc.) for this kind of result. They were expecting an $1 billion box office take and would have accepted close to that number. This kind of drop often ends in franchises ending or relaunched (see all the Spider-Man movies).

The response from Paramount and Hasbro has been silence but that really isn't surprising so don't read anything into it. They rarely talk about the next movie plans until months (even a year) after its left theaters. Besides they have the Bumblebee movie to focus on and with its estimated ~$70M budget. Its success or failure will inform on their approach to the movies moving forward.

Here are the main changes that I think will come. One, Transformers 6 is unlikely to make a 2018 release date and will eventually be removed from the Paramount schedule as they will want to see if the new direction represented by the Bumblebee movie can be applied to Transformers 6. Those results will inform on continuing the story...or rebooting the franchise entirely as I think the franchise is important enough to Hasbro they will push for another movie, even if means doing it without Paramount. No film will include Michael Bay as director. He will retain Executive Producer credit from here on out due to contract obligations but his part in the franchise is done.

The budget, especially if Hasbro has to go it alone, will be reduced significantly to the ~$100M range. A side effect is the visual complexity of the Transformers themselves in robot mode will be significantly reduced as will their robot mode appearances. Not saying the designs will be G1 or cartoon simple, just a reduction of a whole lot less moving bits and pieces, more car plating and other CGI tricks to reduce the cost. The Bumblebee movie will serve as a test case of a more "simplified" design. Bay tried to mitigate some of this with the latter movies by keeping the visual complexity on screen but eliminating nearly all transformations via off screen sounds, cuts, dark lighting (the Nazi scene with 'Bee) or hidden behind structures and smoke and appearing 99% transformed except for a panel or two. A simplified design means a simplified transformation sequence which could mean we might actually see Transformers do their namesake thing a bit more often.

Story wise, too soon to say but I would not be surprised if the Unicron story is dropped or hand-waved away. Mostly because god like being in the middle of the Earth sounds visually expensive but also unclear on how you reveal the big bad w/o destroying the Earth in the process (there was a reason all Unicron stories had him as another planet, I doubt this team was the first to think "Earth!") which means the "big bad" would actually be proxies like Quintessa and Megatron yet again which doesn't strike me as a good idea considering how The Last Knight did.

Basically all this means is means keep an eye on the Bumblebee movie and be patient. Its likely we not hear meaningful news about Transformers 6 for quite a while as their focus will also be on the Bumblebee movie. Hasbro has plenty of options, Transformers still has plenty of fans. The $1 billion box office remains achievable with the franchise as long they remember that special effects without story and characterization will not get you there consistently.

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