You're going to be reading this news a lot over the next few days, so lets just start things out by stating the obvious: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is making a lot of money. With $13.5 million from "pre-midnight" screenings on Tuesday night and actual midnight screenings on Wednesday morning, it has made just slightly less than Transformers 2 did from midnight screenings ($16 million) in 2009 but way more than its closest competition in 2011, The Hangover Part II, which only screened at midnights and brought in $10.4 million. According to the predictions over at Deadline, it's likely to make somewhat less than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen did in its opening weekend, but far more than the original Transformers. It's all still a hell ton of money, but by the law of franchises only getting bigger as they move forward, something of an aberration.

None of the reporting so far accounts for the 3D effect either, which you'd think would boost their gross significantly, especially since this is actually a 3D film that actually earns the extra ticket price. And I'm also curious if the lower expectations for this film are somehow related to the miserable reviews for the second movie, which still turned out to be one of the highest grossing films of 2009. Deadline writes that Paramount "is expecting this latest installment in the franchise to open less than the last one in the U.S. but play to better multiples," but even snarky Nikki Finke doesn't speculate as to why they're expecting lower returns. Maybe this is one of those obvious Hollywood mysteries I'm just not able to figure out from here in New York?

Anyway, if you see Transformers: Dark of the Moon this weekend-- and odds are you will-- know that you're at least supporting an improvement over the second film, which is actually a rare thing given the other law of franchises: the first one is usually good, the second one usually better, and the third absolutely awful. Leave it to Michael Bay to make up his own rules instead.

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