China Box Office: 'Transformers 5' Opens to Huge $123M, but Can It Hold?

China is again the biggest market in the world by far for the Michael Bay action franchise, but whether the latest installment can match its predecessor is uncertain.
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
'Transformers: The Last Knight"

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Paramount's Transformers: The Last Knight made a major ruckus at the Chinese box office over the weekend.

The fifth installment in Michael Bay's critically maligned, commercially smash-successful franchise opened to a huge $123 million in the Middle Kingdom. And yet, some in the market might view that tally as just a touch disappointing. Going into the summer, the big question for China industry watchers was whether Universal's Fast 8 or Paramount's T5 would emerge as 2017's local box-office champ. It's now clear that Vin Diesel and company have the title locked up: The Fate of the Furious opened to $190 million on its way to a historic $393 million China haul.

Still, a $123 million opening is nothing to scoff at whatsoever. 

For starters, the film's China debut is close to double its disappointing $69.1 million North American opening. It's also considerably better than Transformers: Age of Extinction's $92 million full first week in China in 2014. Back then, however, Hollywood films tended to be far leggier in China — whether T5 can match T4's eventual $320 million Sino tally remains in question given the way U.S. action tentpoles have tended to drop off recently.

Bay's CGI action machinations have retained an especially potent following throughout the Middle Kingdom, where local super dads have been known to construct their own life-size Decepticons from spare car parts for their Transformers-obsessed kids (rural Chinese have gone viral not once but twice for building full-scale Transformers). 

The film accounted for approximately 70 percent of all showtimes in China throughout the weekend, earning $48.1 million Friday (including $6.1 million in midnight previews), $45.3 million Saturday and $31.3 million Sunday, according to Beijing-based consultancy Ent Group. Word of mouth appears warm-to-tepid so far, with the film earning an average score of 7.5/10 on ticketing platform Weying, and 4.9/10 on reviews aggregator Douban, which is known for being more critically rigorous.

Mark Wahlberg returns to star in The Last Knight — he made his franchise debut in reboot Age of Extinction — while Laura Haddock and Anthony Hopkins join the series as an Oxford professor and English lord, respectively. Together, the three characters must race to uncover the secret history of the Transformers before the world is destroyed. Josh Duhamel, who appeared in the first three Transformers movies but sat out Age of Extinction, also stars. 

Paramount says the film cost $217 million to make before a major marketing spend. Including 40 markets around the world, the film's global tally sits at $265.3 million after one weekend.

Light-years behind, 20th Century Fox's Alien Covenant was in second place with just $2.2 million for the weekend. The Prometheus sequel has earned $41.5 million after two frames in China.

The Weinstein Company's multi-2016-Oscar nominee Lion, meanwhile, brought out by Wanda Film Co., didn't manage to make much hay from its counterprogramming positioning, opening to just $1.4 million.

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