By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Big-budget, effects-filled Hollywood flick "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" smashed its way through box office records by Monday, its sixth full day in theaters, with global ticket sales nearing $400 million.
Paramount Pictures, which released the movie about shape-shifting aliens battling for control of Earth, said the movie was its highest-grossing international debut ever, ringing overseas cash registers to the tune of $217 million through Sunday and beating the release of "Transformers 2."
The movie opened simultaneously in 58 overseas markets last Wednesday, along with its U.S. and Canadian debut. Global ticket sales, excluding Monday's international box office estimates which have not yet been forecast, stand at $398 million.
In U.S. and Canadian theaters, where "Transformers" debuted in late-night previews on Tuesday last week, the movie will have taken in $181 million by the time the U.S. Independence Day holiday ends on Monday night, according to Paramount's estimates.
Industry watchers said the movie's four-day (Friday through Monday) domestic box office forecast of $116.4 million is the best ever for an Independence Day weekend, which is one of the heaviest moviegoing periods of the year. It eclipsed the $115.8 million debut of "Spider-Man 2" over the same weekend in 2006.
On Monday, Paramount revised its Sunday estimates slightly to $97.5 million for the three-day weekend -- Friday through Sunday -- from a previous $97.4 million.
"Transformers" earned a whopping $24,300 per-theater average from around 4,000 theaters over the three days. By contrast, the No. 2 domestic movie, Disney/Pixar's animated "Cars 2" earned $26.2 million over the three days ($32.1 million for the four days ending Monday) from just under 4,100 theaters. Its per-theater average was about $6,400.
About 60 percent of "Transformers'" domestic revenues came from theaters showing it in more expensive 3D, and about 70 percent of the international box office tally came from 3D, which should help bolster the format that in recent months has seemed to fade in popularity.
"What you take away is that if you give the public the right movie in the right way, audiences are happy to pay the upcharge," said Don Harris, executive vice president of distribution at Paramount.
Against the "Transformers" onslaught, other new releases did not fare so well. The romantic comedy "Larry Crowne," starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, failed to generate much excitement.
Adult-themed "Crowne" mustered an estimated $15.7 million for the four-day, Independence Day holiday weekend in the United States. That is a small amount for a film with the A-list star power of Hanks and Roberts, and it could only reach the No. 4 spot on box office charts in its debut.
Muscling its way ahead of "Crowne" into the No. 3 spot was the comedy "Bad Teacher," starring Cameron Diaz, with $17.6 million over the four-day holiday.
Another newcomer failing to generate much buzz was the comedy "Monte Carlo," which stars Selena Gomez and was aimed mostly at young women. It landed at No. 6 with estimated earnings of a mere $8.75 million over the four-day holiday.
At No. 5 was the action flick "Super 8," which claimed $9.5 million in ticket sales over the U.S. holiday.
Paramount Pictures, which released "Super 8," is a unit of Viacom Inc. Disney/Pixar is part of The Walt Disney Co. "Bad Teacher" was released by Columbia Pictures, part of the Sony Pictures Entertainment unit of Sony Corp. "Larry Crowne" was distributed by Universal Pictures, which is controlled by Comcast Corp, and "Monte Carlo" was released by 20th Century Fox, a division of News Corp.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Paul Simao)