By DAVID GERMAIN/The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Transformers” robots have lost some of their money-making power but delivered the biggest opening weekend domestically so far this year.
Distributor Paramount Pictures said Sunday that “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” took in $97.4 million domestically in its first weekend. That beat the $90.2 million debut of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
But the domestic haul for the sci-fi sequel was down from the $109 million first weekend for 2009′s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
Since opening Tuesday night, the new “Transformers” pulled in $162 million domestically through Sunday, a drop from $200.1 million for “Revenge of the Fallen” in its first five days.
Paramount estimates “Dark of the Moon” will hit $180.9 million domestically by the end of the long Fourth of July weekend Monday.
“Dark of the Moon” added $210 million overseas, giving the movie a worldwide total of $372 million through Sunday.
The movie broke the three-day Fourth of July weekend record for domestic revenue previously held by 2004′s “Spider-Man 2″ at $88.2 million. But factoring in today’s higher admission prices, “Spider-Man 2″ sold more tickets than “Dark of the Moon.”
The movie also set a record for IMAX releases, delivering the large-screen format’s first-ever $20-million-plus opening globally. The company estimates that “Dark of the Moon” will reach $22.5 million at IMAX theaters worldwide by Monday.
The third “Transformers” flick reunites Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay, who gave the franchise the 3-D treatment for the first time as NASA’s 1960s moon landing becomes a pivotal event in the ongoing war between the giant shape-shifting Autobots and their evil counterparts, the Decepticons.
Sixty percent of domestic revenue and 70 percent of overseas cash came from 3-D ticket sales. That was a boost for 3-D business, which had slipped to 50 percent or less of revenues on some recent releases.
“On Stranger Tides” passed a global milestone, becoming the eighth movie ever to top $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. It joined such billion-dollar-plus smashes as “Avatar,” ”Titanic,” ”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
While that’s good news for Disney on its “Pirates” franchise, the studio lost mileage in the second weekend for its Pixar Animation tale “Cars 2,” which slipped from the No. 1 spot to second-place with $25.1 million domestically from Friday to Sunday.
That marked a steep 62 percent decline from the movie’s $66.1 million opening weekend, a sign that “Cars 2″ may not go the usual distance for Pixar films, whose revenues typically are down a modest 30 to 40 percent in the second weekend.
“Cars 2″ received unusually poor reviews for Pixar, which until now has had a perfect track record, scoring critical and commercial successes with such gems as “Up,” ”Ratatouille,” ”Finding Nemo” and the “Toy Story” films.
Still, “Cars 2″ has cruised to hit status, taking in $116 million domestically and $198.3 million worldwide through Sunday.
Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts had a modest opening for their back-to-school romance “Larry Crowne,” which came in at No. 4 with $13 million domestically.
The Universal Studios release was directed and co-written by Hanks and features him as a downsized retail worker who enrolls in community college, where he falls for his jaded public-speaking teacher (Roberts).
The weekend’s other new wide release, 20th Century Fox’s European adventure “Monte Carlo,” opened a weak No. 5 with $7.6 million domestically. The movie stars Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester as American travelers who get the princess treatment in Monaco after Gomez impersonates a European heiress.