The giant robots of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" stomped impressively into U.S. theaters on Friday with early estimates as high as $100 million for the film's launch weekend.
If that number holds, Paramount's fourth "Transformers" would take the title for top opening weekend of 2014 by surpassing the $95 million gross for Disney-Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which opened the first weekend in April.
Mark Wahlberg, appeared headed for the $36.5 million to $39.5 million range on Friday at 4,233 locations. That figure included $8.75 million from Thursday evening showings at 2,990 locations.
Should the Michael Bay production crack the $100 million barrier by the end of the weekend, it would be the first title to do so since "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" opened in mid-November with a $158 million weekend. "Transformers: Age of Extinction" would become the 27th title to post a nine-figure opening weekend in the U.S.
Even the low end of Friday estimates would place "Age of Extinction" at $92 million domestically for this weekend -- making it 2014′s third-highest U.S. opener after "Winter Soldier" and "Godzilla," which opened in mid-May with $93 million.
The hugely profitable franchise opened ahead of the July 4th holiday in 2007, 2009 and 2011 -- with each movie topping $300 million at the domestic box office and the franchise gaining traction overseas with each installment. "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon" took in $352 million domestically and $771 million internationally to wind up with $1.12 billion, becoming the seventh highest worldwide grosser of all time.
If any film were review-proof, "Age of Extinction" would be a candidate with a 16% freshness score on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator site.
Sony's third weekend of "22 Jump Street" appeared to be leading the rest of a very distant pack with Friday estimates in the $4.6 million to $5.6 million range. At the high end, the comedy sequel would see a 39% decline to hit $15 million for the weekend, pushing its 17-day total past $140 million.
Fox/DreamWorks' third weekend of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" could edge out "22 Jump Street" with Friday estimates ranging from $4.1 million to $5 million for a weekend in the $14 million range. The U.S. cume could reach $125 million by the end of Sunday.
The "Transformers" tentpole will likely take in more than triple the $29 million opening weekend of the previous winner, Sony's "Think Like a Man Too." The Kevin Hart comedy was estimated at $3.3 million to $4 million on Friday, sliding sharply between 58% and 66% in its second session to the $10 million to $11 million range.
Disney's durable "Maleficent" looked likely to finish fifth with a Friday in the $2.4 million to $2.9 million range for a fifth weekend in the $8 million territory -- enough to push the Angelina Jolie fantasy past $200 million, thus becoming the fourth film to hit that mark this year following "The Lego Movie," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past."