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
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