‘Transformers’ takes $8.8 million

LOS ANGELES &#8212 Giant robots transformed into big bucks for Hollywood.

The sci-fi adventure “Transformers” took in $8.8 million from Monday night screenings in advance of its official Tuesday release, providing a healthy lead-in for what studios hope will be a strong Fourth of July week at theaters.

“It certainly looks like a great way to start,” said Marvin Levy, spokesman for DreamWorks, which released “Transformers” along with fellow Viacom Inc. unit Paramount. “It’s a case when you have robots like this, they act like magnets to draw audiences into theaters.”

Directed by Michael Bay and based on the Hasbro toys that debuted in the 1980s, “Transformers” chronicles a war between two factions of giant shape-shifting robots that bring their battle to Earth. The human cast costarring alongside the computer-generated robots includes Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro.

“Transformers” played in screenings starting at 8 p.m. Monday at 3,050 theaters.

Monday’s “Transformers” totaled the third-highest record by a movie in similar preview screenings, behind May’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” with $13.2 million and 1996’s “Independence Day” with $11.1 million, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

“It really emanates out of the theaters, who say, ‘Hey, we’re really into a whole week almost of holiday. So why not take advantage of it?'” Levy said.

“Transformers” is positioned to join the ranks of this summer’s blockbusters, “At World’s End,” “Spider-Man 3” and “Shrek the Third,” all of which have surpassed or are about to cross the $300 million mark domestically.

A brisk Fourth of July week would help Hollywood recover from a monthlong downturn that followed a huge start to summer in May.