"Transformers: Age of Extinction" has obliterated the box office, hauling in a higher-than-expected $41.6 million Stateside on Friday, the biggest opening day of the year.
The robots look to do more damage en route to a whopping $104 million-plus debut this weekend. Paramount estimates a slightly more modest $100 million.
If that estimate pans out, the fourth installment of Paramount's ever-growing franchise would overtake "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" as the best debut of the year. Disney-Marvel's sequel earned $95 million when it opened the summer box office early, hitting theaters in the first weekend of April.
This would mark the second best opening for director Michael Bay's $2.6 billion movie series. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" debuted to $109 million in 2009.
The $210 million tentpole could also become the first pic since "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and the first movie of the year to hit the $100 million mark in its launch (as well as the 27th movie to earn a nine-figure opening weekend in the U.S.)
Although the last "Transformers" movie, "Dark of the Moon," made $50 million less domestically than its predecessor, each new installment has grossed progressively more worldwide. "Dark of the Moon" made $1.1 billion to become the seventh highest worldwide grosser of all time. It was miles ahead of "Revenge of the Fallen's" $836 million and the original film's $710.
"Age of Extinction" has already started its international reign, earning $80 million in foreign markets, including an estimated $30 million-plus opening in China -- the largest opening day for a foreign film in the People's Republic. The Friday result is 42% higher than the last installment in the same territories.
The blockbuster had already set a record in China with $3.5 million from Thursday midnight previews. It had the second highest Friday gross of all time in Russia ($4.5 million) and the top opening day of 2014 in Korea ($3 million), among other territories. The movie is playing in 37 international territories this weekend.
This is the first film in the series without star Shia LaBeouf, who was coincidentally arrested for disorderly conduct in New York City on the film's opening night, as Mark Wahlberg and company look to breathe new life into the franchise. Megan Fox left the series after the second installment and was replaced with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who's now been substituted with Nicola Peltz.
The pic, which is now playing in 4,233 locations, made $8.75 from Thursday showings - the franchise's lowest late-night gross to date. So far, "Age of Extinction" is the worst reviewed movie of the series with a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The first "Transformers" movie has the highest with 57%.
As expected, the audience skewed male (64% men), with 58% of moviegoers over the age of 25.
Holdovers led the rest of the pack, with "22 Jump Street" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2" coming in second and third, respectively, in a repeat of last weekend.
The "21 Jump Street" sequel earned $5 million on Friday. The comedy stands to make $15 million by Sunday, which would mark a $45 million drop, raising its three-week cume to $140 million.
Its sequel sparring partner, "How to Train Your Dragon 2," was close behind with $4.1 million. The Fox/DreamWorks animated pic could earn $13.1 million - a 47% decline. It will likely reach $122 million by Sunday.
Last week's victor, "Think Like a Man Too," fell to fourth with $3.4 million. Sony's Kevin Hart comedy is on track for $10 to $11 million, sliding sharply by 65% in its second outing.
Disney's "Maleficent" is still showing holding power as it rounds out the top five. The Angelina Jolie-starrer made $2.6 million on Friday as it headed for a fifth weekend in the $8 million range. The "Sleeping Beauty" live-action reimagining is on track to cross $200 million. It could become this year's fourth film to reach that milestone following "The Lego Movie," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past."
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