Furious 7 Races to Records at Hot Weekend Box Office
By John Hamann
April 5, 2015
Wow. Easter weekend is supposed to be an anti-holiday at the box office. Thanks to Furious 7, that is just not the case this weekend, and maybe never again. The Paul Walker tribute film grossed an insane $143.6 million over this early April weekend, which is like running a cement truck at full speed into the box office record book.
Prior to the release of the rebooted Clash of the Titans in 2010, Easter was not considered a launchpad for big time blockbusters. When Clash opened to $61.2 million, it blew away the second biggest Easter opener at the time, The Hannah Montana Movie, which found $32.3 million. With big Fridays and lower Sundays due to family commitments, the Easter weekend creates automatic front-loading, making it tough to open big films.
Last year’s Transcendence flopped at Easter last year, earning only $10.9 million over its first three days. The list of top films released at Easter features a series of losers and only a handful of winners, with losers including a host of films that should have been big but weren’t, like hot YA property The Host ($10.6 million opening), or supposedly bulletproof sequels like Miss Congeniality 2 ($14 million opening), and The Whole Ten Yards ($6.7 million opening). Furious 7 had none of those issues, which may pave the way for studios to take a new look at using the holiday as launching point.
Furious 7 got started on Thursday, where it earned an out-of-hand $15.8 million from Thursday night screenings alone. That partial opening day gross alone put Furious 7 just outside the top 20 Easter openers ever and set it up for a huge weekend. The former biggest April opener, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which had much softer Thursday previews of $10.2 million. It also ran over Furious 6, which earned $6.5 million from preview screenings. Iron Man 3 earned a similar $15.6 million over its preview Thursday before going on to earn $174 million over opening weekend, and of course The Avengers earned $18.7 million on Thursday before setting the record for an opening weekend at $207 million. Just because Furious 7 had similar first Thursdays to these films does not mean it will earn between $174 and $207 million, and the main reason why is that it's Easter weekend.
On Friday it was entertaining to watch weekend estimates for Furious 7 go up, up and up all day. The weekend estimate started on Friday morning at $115 million, grew to $125 million after the Thursday preview amounts were released, and then grew to $150 million by the end of the day, once matinees and early evening amounts were tallied. Box office analysts had under-estimated the force of Furious 7 prior to Thursday, despite all signs saying $100 million plus was coming.
Estimates went flying upward due to the combined Thursday preview/Friday amount of $67.3 million, an amount that was already the biggest ever for an Easter weekend, the 10th biggest opening day of all time, and the 11th biggest single day of all-time. Oddly enough, the last Paul Walker blockbuster had a very similar opening day as the late Heath Ledger’s last blockbuster The Dark Knight, which earned just a few thousand less than Furious 7 ($67.2 million) when it opened. The debut Friday was bigger than all the Transformers movies, all the Harry Potter films (save Deathly Hallows Part 2), and all the Marvel films save The Avengers and Iron Man 3. The single day gross for Furious 7 represented the fourth biggest weekend gross of the series and was more than The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift earned throughout its run ($62.5 million).