Weekend Wrap-Up

Fast & Furious Races To Over $70 Million

By John Hamann

April 5, 2009

Oh, come on.

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New model, original parts, same boffo box office. Summer starts early as we have a movie with a summertime opening weekend in spring – the only unfortunate thing is that it stars Paul Walker.

Most of the above was the tagline to the new Fast & Furious flick, as Vin Diesel and BOP non-fave Paul Walker return to the franchise that brought them to the A-list (at least briefly, in Walker's case). With the original stars, and the director of the third film (Justin Lin of Tokyo Drift), Fast & Furious opened April furiously, recording the biggest debut for an opening weekend in April. Also opening this weekend is a much better film in Adventureland, and I'm somewhat sad that the scores for Fast & Furious and Adventureland aren't turned around.


Our number one film is Fast & Furious (whether I like it or not) and its fan base blew the roof off movie theaters. The fourth film in the series (I've had the pleasure of writing about each one) opened with a record-breaking gross of $72.5 million from 3,461 venues (F&F, Monsters vs. Aliens and Knowing ate up an amazing 10,893 venues this weekend). Fast & Furious had a venue average of $20,950 and is a huge win for the folks at Universal. Fast & Furious was originally scheduled to be a summer flick, but Universal – one of the shrewdest studios out there – moved this one back into April to avoid the other high-flying competition that dominates the summer months. I have always pushed the theory that schedule be damned – opening a film that people want to see can happen big over any weekend of the year. In this case, Anger Management and its $42 million opening on April 11, 2003 is now the second biggest opener in April, as Fast & Furious dominated that score by $30 million.

The history of this franchise is quite awesome. The first film opened to $40 million on June 22 2001, surprising many and out-grossing the supposed-to-be-strong Dr. Dolittle 2, which showed up with only $25 million. The Fast and The Furious finished with $144.5 million domestically and turned in another $62 million from overseas grosses. All of this occurred against a budget of $38 million, which means Universal earned over $100 million on this picture alone. The second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, opened bigger but finished smaller, which Universal didn't mind. 2 Fast opened to $50.5 million in 2003 without Diesel, and it finished with a lower-than-expected $127.1 million, about $20 million short of the original. It made another $109 million overseas, but this time the budget was bigger, costing Universal $76 million, twice the budget of the original. Overall, 2 Fast made more than the original, but at double the price, and plunged 63% in its second weekend, a worrisome trend for future sequels. In 2006, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift opened, and signaled that the party may be over. Both Paul Walker and Vin Diesel dropped out, and the third film opened to a quiet $24 million in 2006, showing up behind the second weekend of Pixar's Cars, and the debut weekend of Jack Black's Nacho Libre (ouch). It finished domestically with only $62 million, but did manage $95 million from overseas business. Budget data was not released, and it looked like the franchise was finished.

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