By Seth Kelley
LOS ANGELES, June 25 (Variety.com) -- It seems the "Transformers" franchise is rusty.
As of Sunday morning "Transformers: The Last Knight," the fifth installment directed by Michael Bay, looks to bring in $69.1 million from 4,069 domestic locations during its five-day opening weekend. That's a franchise low for the sequel from Paramount and Hasbro, behind the first in the modern series, which earned $70.5 million in 2007. "The Last Knight" carries an estimated $217 million production budget.
This makes "Transformers: The Last Knight" the latest summer blockbuster to bank on overseas ticket sales to have a shot at turning a profit. In China, the big-budget action sequel made $41 million in its opening day alone. The projected international cume through Sunday is $196.2 million, powered by $123.4 million in China.
"The Last Knight" comes at a time when Paramount could have used an all-around hit, following recent misses "Baywatch" and "Ghost in the Shell." While the latest "Transformers" movie has been advertised as "the final chapter" and Bay's last go-around, the franchise will continue — Paramount has at least two more movies slated, including a spinoff that could star Hailee Steinfeld. The franchise has historically been massively profitable and seen solid multiples for the studio. Together, the first four earned over $1.3 billion domestically and well over $3.5 billion worldwide.
The latest take on the series centers on an alliance between Bumblebee, Cade Yeager — who Mark Wahlberg also played in 2014's "Age of Extinction" — and roles played by franchise newcomers Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock. Together, the team works together to save the world. Audiences have earned the film a B+ CinemaScore, while critics have mostly dismissed it — it currently holds a 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"The Last Knight" was uncontested at the box office this weekend, but a few indie releases showed traction. Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled" remake from Focus Features played at four theaters this weekend, and should gross $240,545 with a strong per screen average before it expands to over 500 locations next weekend.
"We're thrilled by this opening," said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features' distribution president. "This is Focus' third collaboration with Sofia and she's created an entertaining, atmospheric thriller featuring strong female representation in front of and behind the camera."
And Kumail Nanjiani's critically adored romantic comedy "The Big Sick" should earn $435,000 during its opening weekend in five locations — that would give the Lionsgate and Amazon Studios release the highest per screen average of any film that has opened this year so far.
"Kumail and Emily's true story provided audiences of all ages a much-needed alternative to the summer blockbusters," said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios' distribution chief.
Otherwise, "Wonder Woman" continues to post impressive numbers, and holds onto second place during its fourth weekend in theaters. This weekend, it should earn an additional $25.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $318.4 million. Earlier this week, the film became the highest-grossing live-action movie to be directed by a woman — a major distinction for Patty Jenkins.
Disney and Pixar's "Cars 3" also looks to earn $25.2 million domestically during its second weekend. Some estimates have the film slightly lower, just below $25 million. The family film, which won last weekend's box office, is expected to pass the $100 million mark in North America by Monday.
"Transformers: The Last Knight's" performance is a tough break for the summer box office's bottom line domestically. For the past two years, this weekend has seen monster grosses for "Jurassic World" and "Finding Dory." Now, attention is turned toward a trio of releases next weekend, as the box office hopes for a shot in the arm from "Despicable Me 3," "Baby Driver," and "The House."
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