'Fast & Furious' races to the top

Sequel sets franchise record with $72.5 mil opening

'Fast & Furious' review
'Adventureland' review
'Monsters' ekes out overseas win

Universal's action sequel "Fast & Furious" screamed off the starting line over the weekend, smoking domestic competition with a franchise record $72.5 million in estimated opening boxoffice.

Miramax's R-rated comedy "Adventureland" bowed quietly, with $6 million in sixth place.

DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens" finished in second place as the Paramount-distributed animated feature dropped a modest 44% from its week-earlier opening to ring up $33.5 million on the frame and shape a 10-day cume of $105.7 million.

Lionsgate's supernatural thriller "The Haunting in Connecticut" was third, falling 58% in its sophomore session to $9.6 million with a $37.2 million cume. And Fox's cop thriller "12 Rounds" tumbled 57% in its second weekend to $2.3 million in ninth place with a $9 million cume.

The session's $157 million in collective coin is more clear evidence of a supercharged marketplace, marking a huge 64% increase over the same frame last year in Nielsen EDI data.

Year-to-date, 2009 is pacing 5% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $2.39 billion. But the annual uptick appears more modest than it might, due only to fluctuations in EDI's seasonal boxoffice calendar.

If measured on a calendar-year basis, the year-over-year improvement in U.S. and Canadian boxoffice is in the double-digit percentages thus far. Ticket sales are outpacing last year's by at least a healthy single-digit margin.

In a limited bow this weekend, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled the baseball drama "Sugar" in 11 theaters to gross $71,187, or a sweet $6,472 per venue.

SPC opened its French-language drama "Paris 36" with seven playdates and registered $72,174, or an auspicious $10,311 per engagement.

Regent's Iranian drama "The Song of the Sparrow" bowed on one screen in New York's Lincoln Plaza cinema, fetching a solid $9,287.

And First Independent's romantic comedy "Gigantic" rung up a big $10,500 from its single New York playdate.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Overture's Amy Adams-Emily Blunt starrer "Sunshine Clearing" added 312 locations for a total of 479 and grossed $1.9 million, or a sturdy $3,923 per site, with a $4.8 million cume.

The "Fast" opening was the biggest of the year so far, well surpassing the previous frame's $59.3 million debut by "Monsters."

A third sequel in Uni's hot-rodding franchise, the Justin Lin-directed "Fast" yielded personal bests for the helmer and co-stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. The topliners were paired in lead roles for the first time since the franchise original.

"Fast" -- which was 40% co-financed by Relativity Media -- had been set scheduled for this summer until Uni accelerated its release. Uni distribution president Nikki Rocco said the spring slotting actually seemed to help.

"I think it was a smart move," Rocco said. "The opening includes the fact that the business has been excellent, and there hasn't been anything like this for a while -- hard-core action that's PG-13. So I think the timing was absolutely perfect."

"The Fast and the Furious," the 2001 franchise starter, bowed with $40.1 million and rang up $144.5 million overall domestically. A first sequel, 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious," debuted with $50.5 million but registered just $127.1 million domestically, and 2006's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" opened with $24 million en route to a limp $62.5 million domestic tally.

"Fast" audiences were comprised 57% of males, with 59% of patrons under age 25. The audience was ethnically diverse, comprised 46% of Hispanic moviegoers, 28% Caucasian, 16% African American and 8% Asian.

The latest sequel's outsized bow also set a new monthly mark. The previous biggest April opener had been 2003's "Anger Management," which unspooled with $42.2 million.

Set in 1987, "Adventureland" stars Ryan Reynolds ("Definitely, Maybe") and Kristen Stewart ("Twilight"). Greg Mottola ("Superbad") helmed the tale about a recent college grad working at an amusement park.
"It' was about what we expected, though of course we always hope to overperform," Miramax president Daniel Battsek said.

Miramax contributed half of the pic's $8 million, with pic producer Sidney Kimmel Entertainment picking up the balance.

Opening audiences were comprised 55% of females, with 50% of patrons under age 25.

Looking ahead, three pics open wide next weekend. Those include Disney's tween-targeted "Hannah Montana: The Movie," Fox's action fantasy "Dragonball: Evolution" and Warner Bros.' Seth Rogen starrer "Observe and Report."