'Fast & Furious' hits theaters running

Fourth pic in Uni franchise on cruise control; 'Adventureland' bows and 'Monsters' lurks

Two big pics open wide today — Universal's hot-rodding action sequel "Fast & Furious" and Miramax's R-rated youth comedy "Adventureland" — but only one will burn rubber at the domestic boxoffice.

"Fast & Furious," the third sequel in Universal's 8-year-old franchise, is on track to gross $45 million or more during the weekend. "Adventureland" appears limited to a bow in the single-digit millions.

Budgeted at more than $80 million, and with Universal splashing out an estimated $25 million to bring back Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, "Furious" follows 2006's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," with "Drift" helmer Justin Lin back in the director's chair.

Originally scheduled to unspool in June, "Fast & Furious" was moved up after Universal's "The Wolf Man" abandoned this weekend's slot for a planned Nov. 6 bow. The return of the stars of 2001's original "The Fast and the Furious" seems to reflect the studio's determination to boost grosses for the latest installment after the previous sequels met with increasingly mixed critical and commercial reception.

Universal's marketing tagline for "Fast & Furious" sums things up well: "New model. Original parts."

"This time, it's not just about the cars," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "It's also about the guys getting together and moving forward."

The franchise original bowed with $40.1 million and rang up $144.5 million domestically. The first sequel, 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious," debuted with $50.5 million but registered only $127.1 million domestically, and "Drift" opened with $24 million en route to a limp $62.5 million domestic haul.

"Adventureland," set in 1987, stars Ryan Reynolds ("Definitely, Maybe") and Kristen Stewart ("Twilight"). The story of a recent college grad who takes a job at an amusement park was helmed by Greg Mottola ("Superbad").

Elsewhere this weekend, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount hope for a good market hold for the DWA-produced "Monsters vs. Aliens."

"Monsters" topped the domestic boxoffice last weekend, ringing up $59.3 million during the 3-D family pic's first frame. A relatively modest drop from its opening grosses — say, 50% — would mean a sophomore session of about $30 million, which easily should grab this session's silver medal.

Carl DiOrio reported from Las Vegas; Gregg Kilday reported from Los Angeles.
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