Box Office: ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ Rolls Out With $25 Million Opening Day, ‘Spider-Verse’ Contends for No. 1

The summer season has its first genuine battle for top of the heap, as “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” looks to fend off last week’s crowning release “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

The “Transformers” sequel put its foot on the gas with $25 million on its opening day, a figure that includes $8.8 million in Thursday previews. The film is projected to land roughly $60 million through the three-day frame, which would come in at the higher end of estimates heading into the weekend.

“Rise of the Beasts” represents Paramount’s attempt to rejigger the “Transformers” franchise for future longevity. The first three live-action entries, directed by Michael Bay, each crossed $300 million in North American grosses, while threequel “Dark of the Moon” and its follow-up “Age of Extinction” both surpassed $1 billion worldwide. But Bay’s final production, 2017’s “Transformers: The Last Knight,” saw diminished returns, finishing with $130 million stateside and $605 million worldwide — almost half of the $1.1 billion in ticket sales earned by “Age of Extinction.” Paramount released the spinoff “Bumblebee” in 2018, produced on a comparatively smaller budget and met with $467 million worldwide.

“Rise of the Beasts” looks to rebound with an opening higher than the $44 million earned by “The Last Knight” in its debut. But robots in disguise don’t come cheap; the film will have to find some staying power to justify a production budget totaling around $200 million. Paramount’s real play is overseas, which has accounted for more than 70% of ticket sales for the franchise’s three most recent entries. The new installment has earned $43.3 million across 68 international markets so far.

“Rise of the Beasts” stars Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, with a voice cast for the freedom-fighting CGI gas guzzlers that includes Pete Davidson, Ron Perlman, Michelle Yeoh, Liza Koshy, Peter Dinklage and longtime Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen. “Creed II” director Steven Caple Jr. got the keys for this ride. The ’90s-set adventure introduces viewers to Maximals and Terrorcons — two ancient factions of Transformers that can morph into robotic animals.

Never a critical darling franchise, this “Transformers” entry hasn’t been received warmly in the press, earning a 32% approval rating from top critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman was very positive though, writing that “the robots felt more real to me as characters than they usually do.” Audiences are into it, as indicated by the “A-” grade from the first round of ticket buyers through Cinema Score.

While “Rise of the Beasts” has the edge in projections for now, it’s too soon to declare whether it will be able to snag the top slot on domestic charts from “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” The animated adventure from Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation is currently projecting a $55.8 million haul for its sophomore outing, down roughly 53% from its $120.5 million opening last weekend.

The “Spider-Verse” sequel has been a box office smash since landing the biggest domestic opening day of the year ($51.7 million). Not only did the interdimensional adventure debut like a premier summer blockbuster, but it’s holding even better than one — comic book adaptations usually face front-loaded box office performances due to outsized fan demand. A second weekend drop around 53% would mark an impressive achievement for “Spider-Verse,” which has generated some of the strongest reviews of the year.

“Across the Spider-Verse” will push its North American earnings beyond $200 million on Saturday. In just eight days of release, the film has already surpassed the final $190 million domestic gross earned by its 2018 predecessor “Into the Spider-Verse” — and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Three Disney releases round out the top five slots on domestic charts. The company’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” earned $6.8 million on Friday, down roughly 43% from its previous outing. While the aquatic musical hasn’t been performing as strongly overseas, it’ll push its domestic earnings beyond $225 million through the weekend. It’s tracking just a hair behind the 2019 remake of “Aladdin,” which earned $230 million through its first 17 days of domestic release and finished with $355 million.

Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is projected for fourth place after earning $2 million on Friday, down 32% from its last outing. After opening at the top of May, the interstellar trilogy capper has shown some staying power, looking to push its domestic gross to $335 million through Sunday.

“The Boogeyman,” a horror release from 20th Century Studios, is slotted for fifth. The under-the-bed thriller earned $2.1 million on Friday to push its domestic earnings beyond $20 million.

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