The problem is that, sales-wise, "Transformers" is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster summer. Before this weekend, the summer's total domestic box office was $1.79 billion, down 13 percent from the $2.07 billion earned at this point in summer 2013. Overall, the 2014 tally stood at $4.96 billion, off about 30 million from this time last year.
Last year, of course, there was "Iron Man 3," along with many other huge hits. There hasn't been any hit on that scale this summer. Indeed, there have been major disappointments, including "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Godzilla,", "Edge of Tomorrow," "A Million Ways to Die in the West," "Blended," and "Jersey Boys." Before the final weekend in June last year, there had been four summer movies that had already made $200 million. This year there was just one ("X-Men: Days of Future Past"), though by the end of this weekend, two more had finally crossed the line ("Spider-Man" and "Maleficent") and another was just a couple million shy of the mark ("Godzilla"). Two of last summer's movies eventually crossed $300 million; none of this summer's releases is likely to repeat that feat.
What's more, few of this summer's remaining movies are expected to be the sizable hits that could redeem the season. "Tammy," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," "Guardians of the Galaxy," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" may score well, but no one's expecting numbers like those from last year's late-summer hits, like "Despicable Me 2," "The Heat," "We're the Millers," "The Conjuring," "Grown Ups 2," and "The Wolverine."
Where'd everyone go? The beach? (Maybe. With July 4 falling on a Friday this year, many moviegoers may have taken the entire week off.) Are they all watching the World Cup? Male moviegoers certainly haven't shown up as expected for many of this summer's action and comedy spectacles. Women have driven the audiences, not just for traditionally female-oriented fare like the romance "The Fault in Our Stars," but also for comedies like "22 Jump Street" and "Think Like a Man Too" and the seemingly testosterone-heavy musical "Jersey Boys." Of course, Hollywood isn't asking itself how it can use this summer's lessons to attract more women, but rather, tearing its collective hair out for not attracting more men.
It's possible that this fall's potential blockbusters, from "Interstellar" to the third "Hunger Games" movie to the final "Hobbit" installment, could bring 2014 back up to speed with previous years. But until then, not even a heroic Mark Wahlberg and a robot army are likely to save this summer from the box office doldrums.