Michael Bay’s $75-million payday for ‘Transformers’

June 10, 2009 | 2:19 p.m.

Michael Bay on the set

When I interviewed Michael Bay last month, he certainly seemed unfazed by all of his many critics. Now I know one of the reasons — or maybe even 75 million of them. Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz, who delve into the money matters of Hollywood, have a report in today’s Los Angeles Times about the bombastic filmmaker’s sweet payday on the first “Transformers” movie and the windfall he has coming with its sequel. –G.B.

Paramount Pictures’ upcoming film doesn’t hit theaters until June 24, but Hollywood is already buzzing that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” could be the biggest movie of the summer and net one of the richest paydays ever for a director.

Director Michael Bay agreed to forgo his normal percentage of ticket sales and a portion of his upfront fee in exchange for an even bigger piece of total profits from all revenue sources after Paramount recoups its costs. This kind of deal is increasingly common in Hollywood as studios attempt to avoid situations where they lose money on a film or eke out a tiny profit while big-name talent walks away with tens of millions of dollars, as happened with Paramount’s “Mission Impossible III” and star Tom Cruise.

Bay cut a similar deal on the first “Transformers” movie in 2007 and walked off with about $75 million after the sci-fi event film grossed $708 million worldwide and became one of the year’s top DVD sellers.

Though the bar is higher for “Revenge of the Fallen” to go into the black since it cost more than its predecessor, Bay could make an even bigger killing this time around if the sequel does significantly better.

Several executives who have seen the most recent pre-release audience surveys are predicting a five-day domestic opening exceeding $160 million. That would beat “Spider-Man 2’s” $152 million in 2004, currently the five-day record for any film debuting on a Wednesday.

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is also opening day-and-date in most major foreign territories. If it follows the pattern of the first film, it will earn even more money internationally than in the U.S. and Canada. The original “Transformers” earned 55% of its box office revenue overseas.

Tracking is never a surefire indicator of a film’s performance, of course. But it’s rare when a film is the No. 1 most anticipated offering three weeks from its opening — which “Transformers” was last week.

The movie has a good shot at being the summer’s top grossing worldwide hit. Warner Bros. July 15 release, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” is the only other competitor for the crown.


— Ben Fritz and Claudia Eller


Michael Bay and friend

Michael Bay knows you hate him: “There’s a lot of poison on the Internet…whatever”

Michael Bay talks about Shia LaBeouf’s dark moods

“Transformers 2” screenwriters are having a summer to remember

“Transformers 2”: The mother of all robot-on-robot violence


7 Responses to Michael Bay’s $75-million payday for ‘Transformers’

  1. Rena Moretti says:

    That a no-talent director like Michael Bay be given deals like those as if he were capable of doing something akin to directing is a great example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood.

  2. Rena Moretti says:

    It may help the writer of this article to remember that box-office numbers are generated, not by an independent company, but by the studios themselves, which may explain why a series of "record box-office" years has failed to have any impact on the bottom line of the companies supposedly reaping this windfall.
    Theater chains are cutting their dividends and media conglomerates are reporting disastrous results.
    Since when has "record box-office" equated negative profits?

  3. Rob says:

    Bay's films are just a chaotic blur, and difficult to follow. I've seen most of his, and I just can't follow his visual storytelling very well.

  4. runningman says:

    There are quite a few people who like the kind of shallow plot movies with a lot of CG's in them that Bay makes. You don't need talented actors just as in this case some stupid robots that want to destroy our world. This is what our society has evolved into.

  5. Luiza Warren says:

    It's a funny thing about money, that pretty much everyone wants more. Doesn't matter how much they already have. In fact, it often seems like the more you have, the more determined you are to have more. That seems like pretty suspect reasoning to me. Perhaps because I don't accept your assumption that there are certain 'kinds of people' for whom this happens and the rest of us plebs just won't ever make it.

  6. […] with the banishment of Megan Fox, he will brook no dissent on the set, and (especially after a $75-million payday for just one of the films) Bay is the only human cog who is as important as the big clanging […]

  7. Shannon S says:

    I guess money talks – like Michael bay's LAWYERS! Paramount has a way of figuring money in that it STILL claims that "Coming To America" OR "Forrest Gump" has YET to make $1 profit so the writer's don't get ANY money from them!!!! I bet if Bay wasn't so rich and Paramount tried their usual "even though it has made a BILLION and only cost us $400 million it hasnt made a profit yet" B.S. with him, Bay's lawyers woud have a field day! I actually wish this WOUDL happen to stop the screwing over of less-fortunate writers & film makers.

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