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'Transformers' vs. 'Larry Crowne': Machines trump movie stars at the metroplex

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The robots have already pulled in some $64 million in US theaters alone, just from the blockbuster’s mid-week opening. According to Mr. Dergarabedian, the romantic comedy “may” pull in what it cost to make, over the four-day weekend.

Reviews aren’t helping much. Both films are mired in the mid-30s on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The Los Angeles Times critic, Kenneth Turan, dubbed Crowne “hollow and shockingly unconvincing.”

The bad press will hurt the love story more than the action movie, Dergarabedian says, because blockbuster films like the Transformers franchise are relatively critic-proof. “These mid-range romantic comedies that target older audiences take a hit from bad reviews because older people tend to read and care more about reviews,” he says.

While pairing a romantic comedy against a big popcorn flick is standard counter-programming, even the smaller films with big names in them are approached as the latest installment in a popular genre.

Professor Morrow points to last week’s Cameron Diaz film, “Bad Teacher,” and the upcoming “Horrible Bosses,” featuring Jennifer Aniston – both big Hollywood names. “The movies are being marketed as the ‘next’ in the raunchy adult category that Judd Apatow has made such a hit,” he notes. “The movies are not being marketed as star vehicles, because that isn’t working anymore.”

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