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Thanks to an engine more powerful than ever, Fast & Furious 6 topped the Memorial Day box office with $120 million for a worldwide total of $317 million — a franchise best and the biggest debut of all time for Universal. The action pic has taken in $197 million internationally, including $17 million earned since opening last weekend in the U.K. and Ireland.
The victory was made sweeter by the fact that Fast 6, costing $160 million to produce, had no trouble zooming past The Hangover Part III, the final installment in Todd Phillips‘ R-rated comedy franchise.
Hangover III, opening Thursday in North America to get a one-day jump on Fast 6, grossed $51.2 million for the four-day holiday weekend and $63 million for the Thursday-Monday stretch — 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 still turned 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 $314 million, the best ever for the holiday and outpacing the record set in 2011 with $276 million. Fox’s animated toon Epic, the third new film of the holiday, also contributed to the boom with a solid $42.6 million bow.
Warners president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman didn’t try to hide the studio’s disappointment that Hangover III didn’t do more domestically. The studio and Legendary spent $103 million to make the film.
“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 were 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.
Many had questioned the decision to open Fast 6 and Hangover III 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 Van Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez.
Universal’s previous best domestic opening was Jurassic Park entry The Lost World, which debuted to $90.2 million over Memorial Day weekend in 1997.
Overseas, Fast 6 has placed No. 1 in each of the 60 territories where it has opened. The pic earned $160.3 million over the weekend proper, and $180 million for the four-day weekend (Monday is a holiday in many countries). Fast 6 nabbed the biggest opening of all time in the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East and Argentina.
Hangover III also did strong business overseas as it opened in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, taking in a promising $19 million for a worldwide bow of $82 million. 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).
Paramount and Skydance’s Star Trek Into Darkness enjoyed an impressive hold in its second weekend, grossing $47 million for the four-day holiday to place No. 3. The J.J. Abrams-directed sequel has now grossed $155.8 million domestically and $102.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $257.9 million. And on Saturday and Sunday in North America, it narrowly beat Hangover III in North America.
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, placed No. 4 with its $42.6 million opening. Featuring a female heroine, the 3D pic earned an A CinemaScore and a 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 and worldwide total of $86.6 million.
“I think it’s a fantastic start. We have a four week run before Monsters University opens, and I’m very bullish on where Epic goes,” said Fox president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson.
Disney and Marvel’s Iron Man 3 rounded out the top five, with four-day earnings of $24.4 million. The tentpole has now earned $1.15 billion worldwide to become the No. 5 grossing film of all time.
Baz Luhrmann‘s The Great Gatsby has jumped the $200 million mark at the worldwide box office, earning $117.7 million domestically and $85.6 million internationally for a total $202.9 million.
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, grossing $321,914 for the four-day holiday weekend for a location average of $64,383. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film, starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, in the U.S.
Among other specialty offerings, Mud continued to impress, grossing $2.4 million from only 712 theaters to place No. 7. The movie, from Roadside Attractions, has now grossed $15 million, the top showing ever for the indie distributor.
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