Monday, June 26, 2017

Transformers Future Murky After Last Knight's Opening Weekend

While Transformers: The Last Knight was #1 movie released this weekend in the US and everywhere else it was released, the numbers add up to a very bad picture. In the United States the movie's opening weekend was a franchise low with an estimate of $69 million dollars. The movie also opened in 41 international markets for an estimated take of $196.2M resulting in a worldwide total of $265.3M worldwide total for its first weekend release. Most of that was because of a franchise high opening weekend in China of $123.4M.

While on the surface the numbers seem impressive but trouble spots indicate the franchise will fail to three-peat on a $1 billion box office take. The $69M in the United States includes the early Tuesday to Sunday night so the movie is going to die a quick death in the US as it is unlikely it will cross $150M in the States.

Paramount's plan was always the international box office after ever increasing returns with 77.8% of Age of Extinction's grosses coming from the international box office so was safe to assume that near same 20% US/80% Intl split for The Last Knight. A prediction that is currently holding true. "The movie was conceived of for a global audience and it performed for a global audience. You aren’t making the movie with just the U.S. in mind," said Paramount president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan.

However, the international numbers (outside of China) are still below expectations. Even the bright spot of China is showing problems as the movie experienced "an unexpected 31% drop in China from Saturday to Sunday." This indicates that next week's drop off will be well over 50% in the country so even that take for China could top out at around $225M. Toss in another $250M (likely on the high side) for the rest of the world and you get an estimated worldwide take by the time the movie leaves theaters of $150M US + $225M China + $250M Rest of world = $625M. That result would be the lowest in franchise history, nearly half of what the previous two movies made and adding to the blow is the Last Knight is also the most expensive of the franchise.

Bay and co will wave this off as no big deal, point to their (very few) good reviews and act like this was a highly successful release. But this is bad. Make no mistake a likely 50% drop in world wide box office from one movie to the next when everyone at the top of the corporate food chain was expecting the opposite is nearly franchise killing bad.

This seems like hyperbole but keep in mind in a few things. I am not entirely sure the movie will be considered profitable as the $217 production costs doesn't include marketing costs (those 40 plus TV spots for the US alone do not air for free), the percentage cut theaters get and many other factors have yet to be factored in. The old, not really accurate, formula was take the cost of the film and double it before you can consider it profitable (so $434 in this case). That pseudo-formula was before the international box office became so important.

Now its only a basic guide post. For example only 25% or so of China's box office sales come back to Paramount and Hasbro compared to 50% for the US and that varies further for each international market. That 25% take is really the main reason while all films are not half China approved productions even though I suspect that day will come. So on paper its "$123M China opening, highest ever for franchise" but in reality is really ~$30 million give or take for Hasbro/Paramount vs $34.5 for US take for this opening weekend. As a result while US numbers look bad, China's numbers look good, in actuality more potential profit will come from the US sales.

In addition we are just thinking "box office" but they are also thinking of toys, merchandise, theme park tickets, and a host of ancillary sales that will also take a massive hit. Box office success feeds into the other. One drops, the other drops even more. How much of a hit we will never know.

If not for Bumblebee movie already too far in pre-production and already planned to be filmed on a budget about half of Last Knight along with pay or play contracts probably signed (as in actors, producers and other high level positions in the movie's production get paid whether film is made or not), I would have had serious doubts about that movie's future. I feel bad for the Bumblebee team as the pressure and scrutiny from corporate executives just increased by several orders of magnitude. They will probably remain committed to Transformers 6 for now but Bumblebee will likely be a make it or break movie for the franchise's future.

A lot of big and small course corrections will likely be made. The biggest course correction will be if Michael Bay had not already made the face saving move of quitting directing the Transformers films (now know why he kept saying that after every film), he is most definitely done now. The one guarantee is Paramount and Hasbro took "get Bay back for TF6" off their bucket list. Once you include his ever increasing director's fee, executive producer fee, bonuses, box office %, toys and merchandise sales % and who knows what else, he has been averaging ~80M windfall per movie. That alone would do it as the hit they are already going to take is only going to be larger once include his cut. That it took until TF5 might be the only reason there will be a Transformers 6 as there is enough evidence that audiences want Transformers films, just not Michael Bay Transformers films anymore. For Michael Bay fans, do not concern yourself about him leaving the franchise. He is contractually bound to maintain executive producer credit (and thus input) on future Transformers films.

A relatively smaller change will be for the Bumblebee movie. The script is probably going to get another re-write and the budget possibly decreased even further. I also would not be surprised if Paramount and Hasbro are mulling tossing out the results of the writers' room scripts as it existed to prevent this very box office result. The goal was to create strong scripts with better story and characters but really they had zero power to drive change and ultimately just based on the previous movies' successes, what Bay wants Bay gets, so I doubt they had any meaningful producer or executive support. Not that any executive at Hasbro, Paramount or Transformers producers would actually admit this. A final decision on the writers' room stuff will likely wait until after the Bumblebee movie is months into production as will have dailies and early edits to inform their decision on how their changes may have improved things. Don't be surprised if suddenly that 2019 release date for Transformers 6 gets moved or dropped completely.

Time will tell on whether I am being hyperbolic or not. It has long been time for the franchise to move on from Bay's approach, formula and style. I get why they stuck with it, why risk breaking what was working. That clearly is no longer the case. I just wish it had not occurred this way as went from a future of many Transformers films to maybe a near future with no films. If the film had been as successful as Hasbro and Paramount assumed it would be they would have just told the next director to do it like Michael Bay. This could be the kick in the pants they need to re-think their approach.

Worldwide Box Office Franchise Comparison

Transformers: The Last Knight
Production Budget: $217 million
(My estimated) Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $150,000,000 20.0%
+ Foreign: $500,000,000 80.0%
= Worldwide: $625,000,000

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Production Budget: $210 million
Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $245,439,076 22.2%
+ Foreign: $858,614,996 77.8%
= Worldwide: $1,104,054,072

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Production Budget: $195 million
Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $352,390,543 31.4%
+ Foreign: $771,403,536 68.6%
= Worldwide: $1,123,794,079

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Production Budget: $200 million
Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $402,111,870 48.1%
+ Foreign: $434,191,823 51.9%
= Worldwide: $836,303,693

Production Budget: $150 million
Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $319,246,193 45.0%
+ Foreign: $390,463,587 55.0%
= Worldwide: $709,709,780


  1. I doubt the Bumblebee will get nixed (maybe it will). But I think they are going to nix Transformers 6, wait several more years and reboot it. It is a shame because the Last Knight ends on a cliffhanger with the mid-credit scene.

  2. Lol who writes this shit? Just close this website.

    1. Oh no! Facts, substancial evidence, numbers and reasonable opinions and estimations! WE CAN'T HAVE THAT! SHUT IT DOWN!

  3. Am a huge TF fan, saw the movie twice. It was a complete mess, could have easily edited 30min from the film and had a much better experience.

  4. I think they're biggest mistake was the writers room, they clearly didn't have the feel for transformers in this latest addition which is such a shame with so much hype it built before it was released. They need to stop building these films around humans and then maybe they might get somewhere in the box office.

  5. @Unknown 7:16pm. That's exactly what I tell everyone and has been the theme of these movies since day one. As long as there's all this human involvement, we'll never have a truly amazing Transformers movie.

  6. I enjoyed it but the human centeric plot and forced romance is what threw the movie to the floor. no doubt about it. 40 minutes of scene that actually contributes to the story were cut and they expect a billion this time? no just no.. let them swim or sink..

    1. TLK is a improvement from AOE but no doubt, it could've been so much better...

  7. With 40 minute cut to a movie that had holes all in it due to the cuts....what do you expect, they have to stop listening to critics and stop trying to please all of these people who are always complaining. Running time leaked....he went in and took 40 minutes of the movie out. I would've sat through a 3hr 10min transformers movie if that 40 minutes would've made the movie better. I enjoyed it, but it could've been much better. And I believe if those scenes would not have been cut from the film it would not have been choppy and would have been a much smoother experience. I liked it better AOE in terms of story and concept. It had twist and turns and it wasn't obvious and predictable. And by damn isn't it great to finally hear bumblebees speak?! New writers was a good idea, but this isn't marvel it's the Transformers you don't have to what they do. How about doing it like "mission impossible" different writers for every movie and I loved all of them. Every movie seemed fresh. Anyway, that's my opinion. Should've kept that 30 min in the film and if it made it better word of mouth would have brought people to the Theaters just because. Live and learn.