Fast Five Fires Up Slow Box Office
By John Hamann
May 1, 2011
About the same time that Tokyo Drift was sending the F&F franchise toward the brink, Vin Diesel's movie career was doing the same thing. The Pitch Black sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, had its troubles in 2004 ($107 million worldwide against a $120 million budget), and Babylon AD imploded in 2008 with a sub-$10 million open. All of a sudden Vin Diesel had gone from multi-franchise superstar to goat, so he signed on to come back for the fourth film in the franchise, Fast & Furious. That's where the game changed again in the F&F world. Fast & Furious debuted to $71 million over the first weekend of April 2009, against a budget of about $85 million. It went on to earn over $350 million, with almost $200 million of that coming from overseas. The franchise was all of the sudden – and for the most part unexpectedly – back in the ball game.
That brings us to today and Fast Five, but even with this one things are different – critics liked it. I'll say it again: Critics liked Fast Five. At RottenTomatoes, 105 reviewers out of a possible 134 found something to like, giving Fast Five a Fresh rating of 78%. The reason I am stunned is that the last film was 27% fresh, and Tokyo Drift was 36% fresh. The opening and the reviews will breathe life into a franchise that's changing again, moving from a car chase franchise to an action/heist movie franchise. What they come up with for Fast Six is anyone's guess, but for now, this series is on fire. One has to give a lot of credit to Universal for keeping the franchise going, despite Tokyo Drift. One should also recognize that without Vin Diesel these films don't work.
Finishing wayyyy back in second is our winner from the two previous weekends, Rio. It's a tough weekend to be a holdover in this frame, as not only are we following a holiday weekend, Fast Five has taken over the biggest cinemas in most theaters. Considering this, Rio did okay. It earned $14.4 million this weekend and dropped 45%. The 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studio release crossed the $100 million mark, reaching $103.6 million. The G-rated release has also already picked up close to $230 million overseas, so it is shaping up to become a hugely successful picture - and likely franchise. $150 million domestic isn't out of the question, which will be in the ballpark of the first Ice Age ($176 million).
Madea's Big Happy Family, following a disappointing opening weekend, does the expected nosedive this weekend. Big Happy Family fell from $25.1 million last weekend to only $10.5 million this weekend, good for a drop of 60%. This is in line with the usual Tyler Perry drops - his last film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, fell 58% in its second weekend. So far, Big Happy Family has earned $41.1 million, which is down from the usual Madea norm.
Fourth is Water For Elephants, down one spot from where it finished last weekend. The Reese Witherspoon drama earned $9.1 million in its second weekend, and was off 46%. This has to be considered a success for the Fox 2000 release, as Water For Elephants cost Fox $38 million to make, and has so far earned $32.3 million.