The Transformers franchise fell back with the debut of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The robo-sequel made $37.3 million on Wednesday, and, while that ranked as the sixth highest-grossing Wednesday opening ever and was the top-grossing opening day of 2011 so far (beating Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), it paled compared to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and likely yielded fewer viewers than the first Transformers.
Invading close to 10,000 screens at 4,011 locations, Dark of the Moon had about as many screens as Revenge of the Fallen and exactly the same number of locations as the first Transformers. Revenge of the Fallen raked in a then-record $62 million in its Wednesday debut two years ago, while the first Transformers drew $27.9 million in its Tuesday start in 2007. The latter's estimated 4.05 million tickets sold was slightly higher than Dark of the Moon's estimate for Wednesday, while Revenge of the Fallen's was nearly twice as much.
Dark of the Moon was the first movie in the series to be presented in the 3D illusion. Its run included 2,789 3D locations (and 146 in IMAX 3D), which was a new 3D record, and 3D accounted for 60 percent of the gross. Thus far, the 3D share has improved upon the 40-ish percent range of the last four big 3D movies Cars 2, Green Lantern, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but clearly wasn't a boon. Distributor Paramount Pictures noted research showing that 62 percent of the audience was male and 55 percent was under 25 years old.
Adjusted for ticket price inflation, Dark of the Moon would drop to 11th on the all-time Wednesday openings chart. It did beat another alien invasion/disaster movie that opened on the same day and date in 2005: War of the Worlds pulled in $21.3 million, and Dark of the Moon had nearly 20 percent greater estimated attendance.
Dark of the Moon's first day included $8 million in midnight shows at around 2,800 venues, which was the second-biggest midnight launch of the year behind The Hangover Part II's $10.4 million. The movie also grossed $5.5 million in Tuesday night previews on around 4,300 screens at 2,700 venues, giving it a total of $42.8 million. The second movie didn't have preview grosses for comparison, but the first one made $8.8 million in previews. With a higher 3D screen ratio, Dark of the Moon's early grosses had a 70 percent 3D share.