Weekend Box Office (July 1 - 4, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Michael Bay's 3D summer tentpole Transformers: Dark of the Moon crushed the competition with the biggest Independence Day holiday opening weekend ever and the third largest global debut in history. Other new releases were not so lucky as the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts vehicle Larry Crowne and the Selena Gomez pic Monte Carlo both delivered disappointing results.

Towering over all other films, the third Transformers installment debuted to $115.9M over the extended Friday-to-Monday holiday period and a colossal $180.7M since its launch on Tuesday night with 9pm previews, according to final studio figures. The Friday-to-Sunday portion was $97.9M. That was good enough to break the seven-year-old records for this holiday set in 2004 by the highly anticipated superhero sequel Spider-Man 2 which bowed to $88.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday span and $115.8M over the Friday-to-Monday period. Taking out the $5.5M that Optimus Prime brought in from Tuesday night sneaks, the actual Wednesday-to-Sunday tally for the robots was $157.1M. The Spidey pic sold more tickets though as Transformers enjoyed a big jump in 2D prices plus 3D surcharges.

Paramount aggressively marketed Moon as a film that should be seen in 3D given that it actually delivers the thrills moviegoers expect from the format unlike so many converted action pics from earlier this year. The film and its campaign paid off as 3D screens accounted for 60% of the gross making for a higher share than the 45% figures that recent action films like Green Lantern and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had. Moon also played in digital IMAX 3D locations.

Dark of the Moon's daily run started with an official opening day Wednesday of $37.7M including Tuesday previews. Thursday dipped 43% to $21.5M, Friday surged 53% to $33M, Saturday inched up another 5% to $34.5M, and Sunday dipped 12% to $30.4M. The studio also reported a Fourth of July holiday Monday of $18M, down 38% from Sunday. The third Shia LaBeouf-led actioner fared well with ticket buyers earning an encouraging A grade from CinemaScore. Good buzz from those that caught the film mid-week helped create recommendations that convinced a broader audience on the weekend to take a chance on the latest dose of destruction and mayhem.

Moon launched ultrawide in 4,088 domestic locations and averaged a muscular $28,348 per theater over four days helped by 3D fees. It also ranked as the third best July opening (Friday-to-Sunday) ever trailing The Dark Knight ($158.4M) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135.6M) which both opened on a Friday.

The 6.5-day total for the new Autobot flick did not beat the $200.1M five-day non-holiday launch of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen from June 2009, however it certainly finished higher than the $155.4M 6.5-day debut for the first film in the series from this same holiday weekend in 2007. That pic started with 8pm preview shows on a Monday with Tuesday being the first full day of release. Factor in the changes in ticket prices and the 3D effect and the number of stubs sold were about the same for the first and third chapters. Good will from the first film helped the opening of the second, but bad buzz from that pic prompted some to drop out when the third pic arrived.

As expected for a Michael Bay action sequel, reviews were not too upbeat. But critics were generally pleased with the quality of the 3D presentation with many saying it was the best for any action movie since Avatar. James Cameron's 3D camera technology was used in the shooting of Dark of the Moon.

The new Transformers opened day and date in most of the world this weekend and generated a sensational $379M opening from Wednesday to Sunday (including previews) making it the third biggest global opening ever after Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince ($394M) and Spider-Man 3 ($381.6M). Moon's international portion stood at $217M led by Korea's $30M, Russia's $22M, and the United Kingdom's $16.5M. China and Japan open later in July and are expected to add much more to the run. Overseas audiences spent more on the extra dimension as 3D accounted for a higher 70% of the international grosses.

The 3D animated sequel Cars 2 fell apart in its second weekend crumbling 60% over the Friday-to-Sunday period and collected $31.6M over the long holiday frame. It was the worst sophomore drop ever for a Pixar film. Sequels typically decline more than originals but the G-rated toon had a holiday to help the second weekend and the new releases did not provide too much direct competition for younger children. Fans of the franchise came out in solid numbers on the first weekend, but word-of-mouth does not seem strong enough to keep the film going. Second weekend falls for the Toy Story sequels were 52% for part two which came off of the Thanksgiving holiday and 46% for the third part from last summer. The 11-day total for Cars 2 sits at $122.6M and a rough road ahead could lead to a final take of around $190M putting it well below the $244.1M of the first Cars from 2006 which had cheaper 2D tickets and no 3D surcharges to help its numbers. Overseas, the Mater movie collected an estimated $22.1M from just 19 territories bumping the international cume to $82.2M led by Mexico, Russia, and Brazil with the global tally climbing to $205M.

After a stellar debut, the Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher suffered a sizable fall dropping 54% (over the three-day span) to $17.3M giving Sony $62.7M after 11 days. The poorly-reviewed R-rated pic might be able to reach $100M for Sony if it can stabilize itself after the holiday weekend.

The combined starpower of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts meant little at the box office as their poorly-reviewed new film Larry Crowne generated a disappointing opening in fourth with only $16.1M over four days. Universal's PG-13 entry played in 2,973 locations averaging $5,415 per site and played to the oldest audience among the weekend's major films. Studio data showed that a whopping 81% of the crowd fell into the extra old category of 35+ while females made up 64% of the audience. Budgeted at only $30M, Crowne was directed by Hanks but an overall dull look coupled with negative marks from critics trumped the star names. And a B CinemaScore grade does not indicate a great road ahead. Universal was quick to explain to the media that it only distributed the film and that Vendome Pictures fully financed the project. The Friday-to-Sunday portion was just $13.1M.

Paramount's no-star summer hit Super 8 followed with $9.5M over the long weekend upping the cume to $110.1M. Steven Spielberg has now produced or directed $100M+ grossers across five straight decades.

The teen girl dramedy Monte Carlo opened in sixth place to soft results grossing $8.6M. Fox's PG-13 film about a young woman pretending to be a princess while overseas averaged a mild $3,473 over four days from 2,473 locations and played mostly to young females attracted to star Selena Gomez. Reviews were generally negative.

Making it into the century club, although in troubling fashion, was Green Lantern which collapsed again falling 64% (over the three-day span) to $7.9M giving Warner Bros. $103.6M in 18 days. The Hal Jordan flick looks to end the summer as the season's lowest-grossing super hero film and may even struggle to reach $120M.

The Jim Carrey kidpic Mr. Popper's Penguins dropped to $6.7M putting the Fox release at $51.7M. Holding up well again despite losing 642 screens was Bridesmaids which grossed $4.4M boosting the total to $153.7M. Rounding out the top ten was the indie hit Midnight in Paris with $4.4M as well for a $34.6M cume for Sony Classics.

New domestic totals for other summer films outside of the top ten include $248.7M for The Hangover Part II, $234.2M for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (which broke the $1 billion global mark on Saturday), $208.4M for Fast Five, $178M for Thor, $157.3M for Kung Fu Panda 2, and $139.3M for X-Men: First Class.

The top ten films grossed $222.4M over four days which was off 7% from last year when The Twilight Saga: Eclipse opened in the top spot with $83.6M over the long holiday frame; and up 20% from 2009 when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remained at number one with $42.3M over three days in its second frame.

Compared to four-day projections, Transformers: Dark of the Moon surged ahead of my $103M forecast while Larry Crowne was close to my $17M prediction. Monte Carlo debuted below my $11M projection.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top July Openings and watch the NEW trailer for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

For a NEW review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Horrible Bosses and Zookeeper both open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jul 1 - 4 Jun 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Transformers: Dark of the Moon $ 115,886,050 4,088 1 $ 28,348 $ 180,651,397 Paramount
2 Cars 2 31,629,695 66,135,507 -52.2 4,115 2 7,686 122,560,310 Disney
3 Bad Teacher 17,261,534 31,603,106 -45.4 3,049 2 5,661 62,707,505 Sony
4 Larry Crowne 16,098,795 2,973 1 5,415 16,098,795 Universal
5 Super 8 9,527,129 12,028,092 -20.8 3,088 4 3,085 110,070,156 Paramount
6 Monte Carlo 8,588,318 2,473 1 3,473 8,588,318 Fox
7 Green Lantern 7,928,176 18,028,056 -56.0 3,280 3 2,417 103,616,460 Warner Bros.
8 Mr. Popper's Penguins 6,702,940 10,145,662 -33.9 2,861 3 2,343 51,727,662 Fox
9 Midnight in Paris 4,382,382 4,171,047 5.1 858 7 5,108 34,582,454 Sony Classics
10 Bridesmaids 4,354,515 5,260,290 -17.2 1,389 8 3,135 153,728,880 Universal
11 X-Men: First Class 3,617,628 6,680,480 -45.8 1,602 5 2,258 139,329,355 Fox
12 The Hangover Part II 2,799,390 5,574,179 -49.8 1,568 6 1,785 248,651,272 Warner Bros.
13 Pirates of the Caribbean: OST 2,629,072 4,928,925 -46.7 1,473 7 1,785 234,176,965 Disney
14 Kung Fu Panda 2 2,086,729 4,173,144 -50.0 1,281 6 1,629 157,281,396 Paramount
15 The Tree of Life 1,307,156 1,328,026 -1.6 228 5 5,733 7,810,592 Fox Searchlight
16 Beginners 740,568 470,981 57.2 108 5 6,857 2,506,936 Focus
17 Delhi Belly 701,824 89 1 7,886 701,824 UTV
18 Buck 601,336 291,503 106.3 131 3 4,590 1,131,831 IFC Films
19 Rio 542,534 532,180 1.9 308 11 1,761 140,575,082 Fox
20 Thor 470,820 511,300 -7.9 270 8 1,744 177,988,100 Paramount
Top 5 $ 190,403,203 $ 137,940,423 38.0
Top 10 222,359,534 164,557,441 35.1
Top 20 237,856,591 173,545,852 37.1
Top 20 vs. 2010 237,856,591 245,066,304 -2.9

Last Updated: July 5, 2011 at 10:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.