'Transformers' franchise stumbles to a future without Michael Bay

About Last Knight: The fifth Transformers movie has failed to transfix American audiences.

Transformers: The Last Knight continued to underperform domestically over the July 4 holiday (finishing third with $17 million and $102.1 million total) after launching the previous weekend with $44.7 million, the weakest box-office opening in franchise history — less than half what Age of Extinction debuted with in 2014.

The studio has pointed to the strong international performance (now at $327.8 million). "You really have to consider how we did in the overall," Kyle Davies, Paramount's president of distribution, told the Associated Press after the movie opened. "It was really strong overseas and in China."

But the so-so numbers signal that domestic audiences want change in future installments.

"Transformer movies have always taken a critical thrashing with fans giving strong support. That honeymoon is over in North America," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "You look at these numbers and think 'Holy cow.' "

Filmmakers had tried a writers' room, which resulted in a deeper Last Knight story that wove Transformers lore with Arthurian legend and had Optimus Prime dramatically battle fellow hero Autobot Bumblebee.

But bigger changes are in store for the franchise because director Michael Bay insists that The Last Knight will be his last Transformers film.

"Michael will, of course, stay involved with the franchise — his ideas will be a part of all this," says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. "But we'll be moving forward with a new director for another movie."

This is a good thing, says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.

"The key is getting away from Bay. He's done his job here and made billions," says Bock. "But it seems like we're seeing the same thing again and again. To reinvigorate domestic audiences, someone else has to breathe life into this franchise."

© 2017 USA TODAY


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