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Universal’s Fast & Furious 6 is racing towards a $122 million Memorial Day debut after leaving The Hangover Part III in the dust and scoring the studio its biggest domestic opening of all time, not accounting for inflation. The action pic also marks the studio’s biggest international opening, taking in $158 million and pushing the film’s worldwide total north of $280 million through Monday.
Universal’s previous best opening was Jurassic Park entry The Lost World, which debuted to $90.2 million over Memorial Day weekend in 1997.
In North America, many questioned the decision to open Fast 6 and Hangover III — the final installment in Todd Phillips‘ R-rated comedy franchise — on the same weekend, since they both target males. Fast 6 benefited mightily from Hispanics, who made up 32 percent of the audience and are the most frequent moviegoers in the U.S.
“This isn’t just a car racing movie anymore. It’s an action pic with broad appeal,” said Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco, noting how unusual it is for a franchise to gain such strength with time. “And it played to a tremendously diverse audience.”
Costing $160 million to make, Fast 6 returns stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez to the cast.
Hangover III is expected to take in $53 million-plus for the four-day weekend and somewhere close to $64 million for the five-day stretch (the pic opened on Thursday) — a tepid showing in comparison to the $135 million earned by The Hangover Part II during the same stretch in 2011.
From Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, Hangover III is still turning in the second-best best Memorial Day showing for an R-rated film after Hangover II and, along with Fast 6 and a group of strong holdovers, helped drive ticket sales to a historic $322 million, the best showing ever for the holiday. Fox’s animated Epic, the third new film of the holiday weekend, is also contributing to the boom with a projected $44 million four-day bow.
Overseas, Hangover III is off to a strong start, grossing a pleasing $19.2 million from the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Hangover III beat Fast 6 in the U.K. with $9.2 million, including $1.6 million in previews (Fast 6 opened there last weekend).
Warners president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman didn’t try to hide the studio’s disappointment that Hangover III didn’t do more domestically.
“Tracking had us a lot closer. It was a little surprising that we didn’t reach the $80 million mark, but I can’t look at a $63 million or $64 million opening and say it wasn’t solid,” he said. “Obviously, the first choice was Fast 6, but hopefully people will get a dose of that film and then come back to us.”
Boosting Fast 6‘s stellar performance are an A CinemaScore and the strong turnout among minorities, while Hangover III could have been hurt by a B CinemaScore (the last film received an A- CinemaScore) and poor reviews.
Paramount and Skydance’s Star Trek Into Darkness is nipping closely at Hangover III‘s heels with a projected four-day gross of $48 million. The J.J. Abrams-directed sequel held well in its second weekend, dropping less than 44 percent. It narrowly beat Hangover III on Saturday ($14.7 million versus $14.4 million).
Overseas, Into Darkness crossed the $100 million mark, grossing $13.1 million for the weekend from 40 markets for an international total of $102.1 million and global gross of $150.1 million through Monday. Into Darkness is only playing in half the international marketplace. Next weekend, it opens in China and South Korea, both crucial markets.
Epic, from Fox Animation Studios and Blue Sky Studios, is holding solidly at No. 4 with its predicted four-day debut of $44 million. Featuring a female heroine, the 3D pic earned an A CinemaScore and coveted A+ among kids. Overseas, the toon opened in another 20 markets over the weekend, taking in $23.1 million from a total of 36 territories for an international cume of $44 million.
Disney and Marvel’s Iron Man 3 rounds out the top five, with estimated four-day earnings of $24.6 million. The tentpole has now earned $1.14 billion worldwide to become the No. 5 grossing film of all time.
Baz Luhrmann‘s The Great Gatsby will jump the $200 million mark at the worldwide box office on Sunday, with a domestic gross of $114.4 million and international total of $85.6 million for Warners and Village Roadshow Pictures.
Richard Linklater‘s final franchise entry Before Midnight shone at the specialty box office as it opened in five theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, grossing $273,944 for the three-day weekend for a location average of $54,789. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film, starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, in the U.S.
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