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Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Need For Speed

Transformers: Age Of Extinction - Mark Whalberg - Hongkong Premiere

Noah - Russell Crowe

Transformers: Age Of Extinction - Nicola Peltz - Hongkong Premiere

"Transformers" time: The last weekend in June looks like it should be a mid-summer night's dream at the multiplexes given the strong tracking we're seeing for "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

Paramount and Hasbro's latest 3D sci-fi action adventure episode in their lucrative "Transformers" franchise opens June 27 at about 4,000 theatres. Directed by Michael Bay, who directed the first three episodes, it stars Mark Whalberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor.

"Age" is tracking in double digits as an overall first choice for moviegoers to see, It's doing best and almost equally well with men under and over 25. Moreover, it's also showing double digit scores from women under and over 25. That should translate into boxoffice fireworks not only to end June, but to brighten the multiplex skies over July Fourth weekend.

In "Age," a group of powerbrokers and scientists trying to learn from past Transformer incursionspush technology beyond their control. Meanwhile, an ancient, powerful Transformer menace setshis sights on Earth.

The franchise's last episode, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," opened June 29, 2011 via Paramount and DreamWorks to $97.9 million and went on to gross $352.4 million domestically.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" arrived June 24, 2009 via Paramount and DreamWorks to $109 million and did $402.1 million domestically.

The first "Transformers" episode hit theatres July 3, 2007 via Paramount and DreamWorks with $70.5 million and ended up doing $319.2 million domestically.

All told, the series first three episodes grossed about $1.1 billion in domestic theatres. Considering how well it's tracking, "Age" should hold its own within the franchise. Indeed, Hollywood handicappers are buzzing about an opening weekend that could be in the area of $100 million. That would give the franchise a big boost at the right time since Bay's already said that "Age" is intended to launch a second trilogy of "Transformers" episodes. Whether Bay, himself, will direct the next two episodes has not yet been determined.

Also in "Age's" favor is that boxoffice business in general has been quite good the past few months. Overall, the gross for this year to date is about $5 billion, just slightly ahead of this time last year. Looking at last weekend's chart, there are eight films now in the Top 15 that have grossed $100 million (or thereabouts) or more. And half of those titles have cracked $200 million or are closing in on it.

The biggest of that bunch is "X-Men: Days of Future Past" with $216.8 million after five weeks. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is right behind it with $199.5 million after eight weeks. "Godzilla's" third with $194.9 million after six weeks. And "Maleficent" is fourth with $186 million after four weeks.

The $100 million club is led by "Neighbors" with $145.7 million after seven weeks. "22 Jump Street" is second with $111.5 million after two weeks. "The Fault in Our Stars" ranks third with $98.7 million after three weeks. And "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is fourth with $95.2 million after two weeks.

Speaking of dragons, "Age's" world premiere was held in Hong Kong last week, after which the Grammy Award-winning rock band Imagine Dragons gave a private concert featuring their first live performance of the movie's theme song "Battle Cry" by Steve Jablonsky, whose many composing credits include "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Bottom line: "Age" should have no trouble keeping the "Transformers" franchise ball rolling. The series' fifth title is now in pre-production with Bay to direct from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, whose writing credits include the episodes "Age" (sole credit), "Fallen" (shared credit with Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman) and "Moon" (sole credit).

Earlier this month, Paramount announced its lineup for 2015 and '16 and "Transformers 5" was high on the '16 list. Previously, it wasn't expected until 2017. But with "Age" tracking well and heading for a strong launch, getting "T5" into theatres sooner is a great idea.

Paramount's 2015 and '16 rosters both look hot, by the way. Both years' slates are driven by well established franchises or sequels to films that showed international strength, which is definitely the name of the game in Hollywood today. For '15 we can look forward to: "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," "Hot Tub Time Machine 2," "The Gambler," "Mission: Impossible 5," "Project Almanac," "Terminator: Genesis" and "Friday the 13th 3D."

The studio's 2016 lineup includes: "Transformers 5," "GI Joe 3," "Star Trek 3," "Hansel and Gretel 2," "Paranormal Activity 5," "Ben Hur" and "Beverly Hills Cop 4."

Adding "T5" to the mix means the summer of '16 will now be even bigger than it was already shaping up to be. Already on deck were such titles as "X-Men: Apocalypse," "The Amazing Spider-Man 3," "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,""Captain America 3" and "Finding Dory," the sequel to "Finding Nemo." On top of that, the next episode in "The Bourne Legacy" was recently moved from its original August 2015 to July of '16.