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LOS ANGELES, 17 April 2017:
The Fate of the Furious is roaring to a record-setting global debut over the weekend even as domestic audiences showed less enthusiasm for the latest instalment in Universal’s long-running Fast and Furious series.
Final numbers have yet to be released – but based on earlier estimates, the action-thriller is poised to set a new worldwide high-water mark.
It is expected to pass the previous record of US$529 million set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If that happens, a large part of the credit will to China, where The Fate of the Furious has already racked up a massive US$135 million in its first two days of release.
It is worth noting that Chinese theatres only give studios about 25% of ticket sales, roughly half of what they receive in most major territories.
Domestically, there are indications that a franchise centred on muscle cars and physics-defying stunts, has crested.
The Fate of the Furious took in an estimated US$100.2 million, an impressive result, but a steep drop off from Furious 7‘s US$147.2 million kick-off.
Heading into the weekend, most analysts expected the film would roar past the US$100 million mark, instead of inch over the line.
There are important reasons for the fall off. Furious 7 served as a memorial of sorts to Paul Walker, the franchise star whose 2013 death in a car accident shattered his co-stars and many fans.
This time, there wasn’t the same emotional resonance. The Fate of the Furious continues the franchise without Walker – adding in series newcomers such as Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.
Then there was the off-screen drama. This film had to contend with reports of off-screen tension between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson that undermined one of the franchise’s key selling points – that these films are celebrations of family and brotherhood.
Both stars steered clear of each other at the picture’s New York premiere and Diesel’s attempt to brush aside the reports of a beef between the actors left something to be desired.
Reviews were also weaker. IndieWire‘s David Ehrlich labelled the film the worst of the series, while the Los Angeles Times‘ Justin Chang argued the franchise had jumped the shark, or in this case, the nuclear submarine.
That’s not to say there weren’t some loud advocates. Variety‘s Owen Glieberman, for instance, praised the picture as a “dazzling action spectacle.” Audiences agreed, handing The Fate of the Furious an A CinemaScore.
Beyond Johnson, Diesel, Mirren, and Theron, The Fate of the Furious brings back franchise veterans Kurt Russell, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, and Michelle Rodriguez.
F. Gary Gray – fresh off the success of Straight Outta Compton, slid into the director’s chair. The film follows the crew as they grapple with Diesel’s betrayal and alliance with a mysterious hacker (Theron).
Universal didn’t provide a budget, but sources peg the cost at US$250 million, making it the most expensive chapter in the series. Despite the rising costs, the film remains on pace to top US$1 billion worldwide, making more sequels a certainty.
Fox and DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby was a distant second place, bringing in US$15.5 million to push the family film’s domestic gross to US$116.3 million.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast nabbed third, taking in US$13.6 million to push its stateside haul to a mighty US$454.7 million. Globally, the fairy tale remake has soared past the US$1 billion mark.
Sony’s Smurfs: The Lost Village came in fourth with US$6.5 million, pushing the animated film’s North American total to an anaemic US$24.7 million. With a US$60 million budget, the third Smurfs film will need to resonate strongly with foreign audiences if it wants to make a profit.
New Line’s Going in Style rounded out the top five, earning US$6.3 million. The comedy about a trio of aging bank robbers stars Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. It has grossed US$23.4 million, nearly matching its US$24 million production budget.
Most studios steered clear of The Fate of the Furious, but there were a few brave newcomers opening in limited release.
Amazon Studios and Bleecker Street debuted The Lost City of Z in four theatres where it picked up US$112,633. The film follows an adventurer (Charlie Hunnam) as he plunges deep into the Amazon in search of glory.
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