Fate Can't Match Furious 7 Domestically But Box Office Still Stellar
By John Hamann
April 16, 2017
If you were expecting The Fate of the Furious to open to Furious 7's $147.2 million, I will get that disappointment out of the way right now. It wasn't going to happen, as Fate is not Paul Walker's last film. Yes, The Dark Knight Rises outpaced The Dark Knight even after the death of Heath Ledger (it was more like a tie, at $158/$160 million opening weekends), but The Dark Knight Rises was closing out Chris Nolan's trifecta of Batman films, and that carried its own weight. The Fast and the Furious movies are like the Energizer Bunny – they just keep going and going (and earning boatloads of money along the way). Furious 9 is already scheduled for 2019, and Furious 10 will be in theaters in 2021. Why? These films area license to print money, as the last three films have consumed $3 billion in worldwide sales - not bad for five years' work.
If we remove the unfortunate third film, Tokyo Drift (which I think we would all like to), the Fast and Furious franchise has only grown since it started way back in 2001. That year, a small, car thieving film – starring a fairly unknown Vin Diesel (Pitch Black had been released but didn't become a cult hit until home video) - opened to $40 million, matching its budget over opening weekend, before going on to earn $144.5 million domestically and another $63 million overseas for a $200 million plus franchise opening. Two years later, 2 Fast 2 Furious opened to $50 million, this time against a higher budget at $76 million. It finished a little lower than the original on the domestic side ($127 million) but pushed the overseas take up to $109 million, so the worldwide total was higher at $236 million. With the higher budget and lower domestic gross, you would have thought that result might cause a little bit of grief at Universal. Then, things changed with the third film, as the race car went off a high cliff, one would think to never be seen again.
Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift was the third film, but they lost stars Vin Diesel (who took a break for the second and third film) and Paul Walker to other projects. In came Lucas Black to headline, and the setting moved to Japan. These changes threw the core audience off, and it almost killed the series. Tokyo Drift opened to $24 million (less than half of 2 Fast), and topped out domestically at a franchise low $62.5 million. The overseas box office was lower as well at $96 million, for a worldwide total of $158 million against an $85 million budget. After advertising (and prints at the time), that worldwide gross would have made Tokyo Drift the only F&F film to not make a profit theatrically. The reboot in 2009 showed the way of the future for the franchise: $70 million opening, $155 million domestic, and $363 million worldwide, all against a similar $85 million budget.
Fast Five cost more at $125 million, but also changed the game again: $86 million opening, $210 million domestic, and a powerful $626 million worldwide, as the overseas gross cleared the $400 million mark. The sixth film matched the upward trend, despite carrying the number six in its title: $97 million opening, $239 million domestic, $550 million overseas, for a worldwide tally of $789 million, against an also growing budget of $160 million (but still entirely profitable through theatrical release).