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''Transformers'' obliterates the competition

”Transformers” grabs No. 1, topping $150 million domestically after seven days, but ”Ratatouille” and ”Die Hard” hold strong to claim the runner-up spots

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True to his name, Optimus Prime has box office watchers looking at the multiplex with newfound optimism this weekend. The cuddly CG star toplined a movie that continued to shine as the biggest non-sequel smash of the summer: Transformers finished an easy No. 1 with $67.6 million, and after seven days (the Michael Bay-Shia LaBeouf movie officially opened last Tuesday, but its total box office includes last Monday’s ”preview” screenings) the film has raked in $152.6 mil domestically.

Holy moly! Even a cynic like me has a hard time finding anything negative to report here. (All I’ve got so far: The movie is a shameless, hulking toy advertisement. Then again, what summer blockbuster, this side of Knocked Up, isn’t a shameless, hulking toy advertisement these days?) Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of all that the Autobots and Decepticons have achieved at the multiplex while waging their battle:

· Biggest first-week gross ever for a non-sequel (beating Spider-Man‘s $151.6 mil)
· A global box office total of $246.1 mil, when you add in the $93.6 mil Transformers earned in 23 other countries
· Biggest Tuesday gross ever ($27.9 mil), as well as the third-best Wednesday ($29.1 mil) and fifth-best Thursday ($19.2 mil)
· A super-solid $16,854 per-theater average in 4,011 venues
· A resounding CinemaScore rave of A from an audience that was two-thirds male but evenly split between young folk and old

As I said: Holy bejesus. Never thought I’d be saying this, but…Well done, Michael Bay!

The action master’s movie led a weekend that, while inevitably down nearly 23 percent from a year ago (when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest shattered records), featured all sorts milestones and related arcana. Ratatouille (No. 2) earned $29 mil on a minimal 38 percent decline, to bring its two-week total to $109.5 mil. The Pixar flick is the 12th release of 2007 to clear the century hurdle. Live Free or Die Hard (No. 3) got its thunder stolen by the chameleonic robots, but still held on well with a $17.4 mil take on a 48 percent drop. License to Wed (No. 4) underperformed on its first weekend with $10.4 mil — blame godawful reviews from critics (the movie has a terrible 25 our of 100 score on Metacritic.com) and a lukewarm reaction from viewers (its CinemaScore is a so-so B+). And Evan Almighty (No. 5) actually did okay for a change, banking $8.1 mil to bring its three-week total to $78.1 mil. Could Steve Carell’s comedy become the biggest box office flop to actually earn more than $100 mil? It’s starting to look that way.

Rounding out the Top 10 were 1408 ($7.1 mil), Knocked Up ($5.2 mil), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($4.2 mil), Sicko ($3.7 mil; at $11.5 mil, it’s already the eighth-best-earning documentary ever), and Ocean’s Thirteen ($3.5 mil).

More news came from beyond the box office’s upper reaches. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End brought its domestic total to $301.7 mil and joined Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third in 2007’s $300 mil club. (Capt. Jack has found a treasure in excess of $900 mil around the globe.) A Mighty Heart collapsed further with a per-theater average of just $983, despite Paramount Vantage’s attempt to salvage the acclaimed-but-financially disappointing Angelina Jolie film’s fortunes with a slimmed-down release pattern. But Christian Bale’s Rescue Dawn saved the day among smaller fare, averaging an impressive $17,333 in six venues.

Oh, and, most impressive of all: I managed to make it through this whole article without mentioning that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens in just three days. Ah, the restraint.