'Transformers' casts shadow over holiday competitors

But weekend frame down 20% from 2006

"Transformers" didn't just dominate the past weekend, it strode atop the full week that preceded it as well. To take full advantage of the Fourth of July holiday, which fell on Wednesday, Michael Bay's big-screen adaptation of the long-running Hasbro toy line began its North American rollout with showings that began at 8 p.m. last Monday.

The DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures co-production picked up an immediate $8.8 million and never looked back. Its daily gross rose to a high of $29.1 million on the Fourth itself. From Friday through Sunday, the PG-13 film, playing in 4,011 theaters and starring rising star Shia LaBeouf, collected $70.5 million. All in all, the movie amassed $155.4 million over its first six-and-a-half days, establishing a new record for the biggest first week for a nonsequel by eclipsing 2002's "Spider-Man," which collected $151.6 million in its first seven days.

Moviegoers appeared enthusiastic about the film, awarding it an A rating, according to CinemaScore. In its sampling of the audience, CinemaScore found that the movie attracted a definite male following — 67% male vs. 33% female. Age-wise, its reach was equally divided between over-25s (49%) and under-25s (51%).

By contrast, Warner Bros. Pictures' "License to Wed," the week's other new wide release, tilted heavily female. According to CinemaScore, 70% of that film's audience was female, and overall, the movie earned a B+. The PG-13 comedy, directed by Ken Kwapis, stars Robin Williams as a manic reverend who counsels young couple Mandy Moore and John Krasinski about their upcoming marriage.

While "License" may have served as counterprogramming, it didn't serve as much of a counterweight to the bigger movies in the marketplace. Bowing in fourth place in 2,604 theaters, it pulled in $10.4 million over the weekend. Having opened on Tuesday, it saw its cumulative gross hit $17.8 million.

Even faced with punishing competition from "Transformers," Buena Vista's "Ratatouille" and 20th Century Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard," the two chart-toppers from the previous weekend, managed to carve out sizable returns.

In second place, "Ratatouille," from Pixar Animation Studios, fell just 38% from its opening weekend as it took in $29 million and saw its domestic cume rise to $109.5 million. It's the 11th film this year to cross the $100 million mark in North America.

The action-packed "Die Hard," starring Bruce Willis, dropped 47% from its first weekend, pulling up in third place with $17.7 million and a cume to date of $84.4 million.

Universal Pictures' comedy "Evan Almighty," on the other hand, now looks as if it may struggle to hit the $100 million mark. In its third week of release, the film ranked No. 5. Grossing $8.7 million, it has collected $78.7 million to date.

Though it finished out of the top 10 in 11th place, Buena Vista's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" could boast of crossing a new milestone of its own by weekend's end. It became the third 2007 release to cross the $300 million mark as it added $3 million to its purse, which now stands at $301.7 million.

While the full week saw an upsurge of business, thanks to the early arrival of "Transformers" and a very busy Fourth at the multiplex, the weekend itself was down when compared with last year's post-Fourth weekend, when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" hit theaters with a $135.6 million opening.

The 103 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter grossed $173.9 million, down 20% from the $218.1 million grossed during the comparable weekend last year.