Paramount and Hasbro's Transformers: The Last Knight is off to a troubled start in North America, where it earned $8.1 million on Thursday for a muted two-day total of $23.8 million, the lowest start of any title in the franchise.
Prerelease tracking had suggested Transformers 5 would post a five-day domestic debut in the $70 million-$75 million range, notably behind the $100 million North American launch of the last title, Transformers: Age of Extinction, over the three-day June 27-29 weekend in 2014 and the lowest in the Hasbro toy-based series.
Based on Wednesday and Thursday's performance, however, the new film could have trouble clearing $60 million in its opening.
Instead, The Last Knight — similar to recent high-profile summer tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — is counting on sizable returns internationally, where it opened to an impressive $47.9 million in China on Friday, the third-best showing of all time for a foreign movie after Fate of the Furious and Furious 7, which took in north of $60 million.
That's 69 percent ahead of Age of Extinction, which grossed a massive $858.6 million to become the first Transformers movie to top the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, on its way to resting at $1.1 billion, not accounting for inflation. The domestic portion was $245.4 million, which, again, was the lowest in the film series.
The Last Knight opens in its first 42 foreign territories this weekend, including a slew of other major markets, such as the U.K., Russia, Australia, Germany, Italy, North Korea and Hong Kong. In China, it has amassed more than $15 million in advance ticket sales.
Paramount puts the movie's production budget at $217 million before a major marketing spend. The Transformers series has never been a favorite of critics, with The Last Knight currently sporting a 16 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.
Mark Wahlberg returns to star in the latest pic — he made his franchise debut in 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.
The Last Knight is the only new film opening nationwide this weekend. The specialty box office sees the debut of two high-profile titles in select theaters Friday: Focus Features' The Beguiled, from director Sofia Coppola, and Lionsgate's The Big Sick, helmed by Michael Showalter.
June 23, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Thursday numbers.
June 23, 9:30 a.m. Updated with China numbers.