The killer bots of Transformers: Dark of the Moon trampled their two new rivals, amassing $47 million in the movie's second weekend, according to early estimates, and earning $261 million after just 12½ days in theaters to become the year's biggest hit at the North American box office (dethroning The Hangover Part II). Chapter 3 in the terrifying toy story has done even better abroad, vrooming past the half-billion-dollar mark with a worldwide take of $558 million. Since the last Transformers grossed a global $836 million, Dark of the Moon should have a lot of battery power left.
Anticipating that the third installment of the Hasbro-Bay-Spielberg franchise would continue its marauding path through the plexes, two other studios counterprogrammed with new comedies aimed at specific demographics. Both did O.K. Horrible Bosses, an R-rated workplace farce with a savvy ensemble cast of harried underlings (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, Charlie Day) and excruciating executives (Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey), pulled in $28.1 million over the weekend, to finish second. Zookeeper, starring Kevin James as an animal guru to talking beasties, cadged $21 million for third place. And Woody Allen's time-spanning romantic frolic Midnight in Paris edged toward an all-time record for the 75-year-old auteur but with a significant asterisk.
Of the two mainstream comedies, Horrible Bosses had more to crow about. Its take jumped 5% from Friday to Saturday, indicating excellent word of mouth, which was also reflected by an A-minus rating from men (B-plus from women) in CinemaScore's polling of exiting moviegoers. Made for a relatively thrifty $38 million, the movie will earn back its production costs within a couple of weeks and become the fourth consecutive R-rated comedy after Bridesmaids, Hang II and Bad Teacher to outperform its pre-release forecasts and be a solid hit.
Zookeeper is an iffier proposition. After a strong showing in previews last year and because Columbia-Sony was light on blockbuster summer fare the studio shifted the James comedy from last fall to this weekend. Zookeeper kept the kids entertained, with the under-18s giving it an A-minus CinemaScore rating. But the movie cost $80 million to make, and a film that expensive should earn much more than a quarter of its production budget on its opening weekend. Some of the blame may fall on a hazy apprehension of the PG picture's target audience. Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke wrote that Zookeeper was rated PG-13, but IndieWire's Anthony D'Alessandro pegged it as an R. The critics, not that they matter, didn't care about the rating any more than they cared for the film. It pulled a libelous 15% on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate site of reviewers.
Critics love Midnight in Paris: it has a gold-star 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Real people like Allen's movie too. It has landed in the box office's top dozen six weeks straight, and has so far earned a domestic total of $38.7 million more than Allen's career-topping Annie Hall and just below Manhattan and the 1986 Hannah and Her Sisters, whose $40.1 million gross Midnight is sure to pass this week.
Will that make it Allen's most popular movie of all time? Not quite. Not hardly. There's a little thing called inflation, and it applies especially to the price of a movie ticket, which was less than $2.5o when Annie Hall and Manhattan were released and about $4 when Hannah opened. Today that average is above $8. So far fewer people today are seeing a movie that grosses $40 million.