1. Somebody really likes "Transformers." For a smash hit film series, Michael Bay's giant-robot franchise gets awfully little love, at least in public. It's like porn; everyone claims to find it loathsome, but in secret, someone is watching it and making it a huge success. Last week, of course, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" cruised easily to No. 1 because no other wide release film was willing to challenge it. This weekend, it faced three new wide release challengers and still came out far ahead of all of them. It lost 64 percent of last week's business and still grossed an estimated $36.4 million, more than $15 million ahead of its nearest rival, and enough for a ten-day total of $174.7 million. If everyone hates these movies so much, who are the 22 million people who've already paid good money to see the fourth installment? Show of hands, please, and don't be shy.
2. Eric Bana is not a movie star. Sorry, Hollywood. We know you've been trying for a decade and a half to make the handsome, talented, Australian actor into a household-name leading man, but he's just not taking. "Hulk," "Troy," "Munich," "Time Traveler's Wife," "Star Trek," and still... meh. So it's not much of a surprise to see that the little horror movie "Deliver Us From Evil" grew no bigger by having Bana as its lead. It debuted in third place with just an estimated $9.5 million, for a measly $3,116 per venue. That's about half the per-screen average of second-place opener "Tammy" and a third the average of "Transformers."
3. It's still ladies' night at the cineplex. Still, you can see why its makers thought "Deliver Us From Evil" might do well against "Transformers." Horror appeals primarily to women audiences, and Bana is easy on the eyes, so maybe women would come out to see it as an alternative to the testosterone-heavy "Transformers." Same with the raunchy road comedy "Tammy," starring Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon. Yes, there are guys who think McCarthy is uproarious, but none of them was going to go see "Tammy" unless a woman dragged him to see it. Unfortunately, the movie earned weak reviews and even weaker word-of-mouth (a C+ grade at CinemaScore), so despite the movie's second-place opening (with an estimated $21.2 million), it's not likely to grow into a hit the size of McCarthy's "Identity Thief" or "The Heat."
4. It's not just men who are staying home. The lack of guy appeal at the movies is an issue this column has been noticing throughout this slow-sales summer. But there's little of appeal to kids, either. The new "Earth to Echo" hoped to remedy that, but kids didn't think much of the sci-fi adventure and let it debut in sixth place with an estimated $8.3 million, or just $2,554 per screen. Even the leftover "How to Train Your Dragon 2," now in its fourth week, did better, coming in fifth with an estimated $8.8 million. It's worth remembering that, a year ago at this time, "Despicable Me 2" opened with $83.5 million and even Disney megaflop "The Lone Ranger" debuted that same week with $29.2 million. No movie this week was anywhere near that big, let alone any family movie this summer; when kids are out of school, what are you supposed to do?
5. "America" First. Two years ago, Dinesh D'Souza's "2016: Obama's America" grossed $33 million, a huge sum for a documentary. This year, the stakes aren't as high (there's no bitterly contested election battle this time), and neither will the rewards be, for D'Souza's newest doc, "America: Imagine a World Without Her." He was smart enough, however, to put "America" first in the title this time, especially since the film was going wide (in its second weekend) over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Indeed, the movie went from three screens to more than 1,110, resulting in an estimated $2.7 million, good for 11th place. No doubt many more moviegoers will be happy to imagine a world without America next weekend, as long as that land is overrun by the rampaging chimps of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." Meantime, this week saw a sales slump of 30 percent from last weekend; it may take a lot more than apes to save the summer.
Photo courtesy of Paramount/Warner Bros.