Say what you will about how good the movies actually are, but the Transformers franchise has been one of the most consistent money-makers in Hollywood for over a decade. Playing on that perfect intersection of Bombastic blockbuster and fondly remembered nostalgia, the franchise quickly proved itself to be one of the highest grossing movie series in history.
The franchise is currently ranked as the sixteenth highest grossing of all time, sitting comfortably between Star Trek and Twilight. They have collectively earned nearly $1.4 billion at the box office. And with the release of its latest entry, The Last Knight, it could realistically climb past the likes of Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Hunger Games.
And yet, a lot of executives at Hasbro are doubtless shaking their heads at the relatively low returns the latest movie made in its opening weekend. Despite the amount of hype it had going into theaters, and the obscene amount of money these movies always seem to make, The Last Knight only made $44 million at the domestic box office. While its global take of $265 million is looking a lot better, it looks like the public has finally gotten over its obsession with giant alien robots punching each other across the face of the Earth.
Of the current movie franchise, this easily the lowest opening for any of its installments. The first Transformers netted $70 million all the way back in 2007. The first sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, tops the franchise with a $108 million opening. The other two installments made a commanding $97 and $100 million each over the same time period.
To be fair, $44 million over the course of a weekend is nothing to sneeze at. It’s still a blinding amount of money in of itself. Over its theatrical lifespan, the movie will doubtless make back its staggering production and advertising budgets, to say nothing of the revenue it will see from overseas distribution and merchandizing. The franchise is still here to stay.
But looking at Hasbro’s more ambitious plans for the franchise, it just doesn’t look like these movies have quite the same staying power that they were counting on: certainly a far cry from the far more profitable MCU. The plan was to initially have an additional fourteen movies in the franchise: set across all of Human history and tapping a number of different directors to keep them coming year after year.
A $44 million opening weekend buys a lot. It just doesn’t pay for double digits worth of sequels spread across more than a decade, especially when they cost as much to make as they do. And with franchise draw Michael Bay leaving with the completion of the latest movie, what’s to keep people coming back to theaters year after year to keep giving Hasbro money?
These movies really aren’t going away anytime soon. Although their demand has certainly diminished in the last couple of years, there are still plenty of aging fans willing to pay good money to see robot beat each other up over a cowering Mark Wahlberg. I just don’t see them making fourteen more of these things, and certainly not at the accelerated rate that they were hoping for.