'Furious 7' Audience 75 Percent Non-White: Inside the Diversity Stats
One box office analyst predicts that the stunning success of the franchise will affect "how casting decisions will be made in the future for these types of large-scale action epics."
An ethnically diverse cast is paying off in a big way for Furious 7.
The Universal movie opened to a franchise-best $384 million over the weekend at the global box office, including $143.6 million domestically — the biggest debut since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in November 2013 ($158 million). More impressive, its global bow was the fourth-best of all time.
According to Universal, 75 percent of the audience in North America was non-Caucasian, generally in line with previous installments. Hispanics, the most frequent moviegoers in the U.S., made up the majority of ticket buyers (37 percent), followed by Caucasians (25 percent), African-Americans (24 percent), Asians (10 percent) and other (4 percent).
"The importance of diversity of the ensemble cast in the Fast and Furious franchise has been an integral part of the success of the brand," said Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "There is literally someone within the cast that is relatable on some level to nearly every moviegoer around the world, and this has paid big dividends at the box office and also in terms of how casting decisions will be made in the future for these types of large-scale action epics."
Dergarabedian and other box office pundits are hard-pressed to think of another franchise that is as ethnically diverse, even as Hollywood in general is criticized for a lack of diversity both behind and in front of the camera.
Furious 7's ensemble cast includes Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and, of course, the late Paul Walker. Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges, martial artist Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou also star.
"Someone that I admire quite a lot recently said this is a franchise that really looks like America, and there are characters that everyone can relate to. I think that's a big plus," said Universal president of domestic distribution Nicholas Carpou.
Overseas, Furious 7 opened to $240.4 million, the No. 3 foreign opening of all time — also pointing to the broad appeal of the cast. The movie delivered huge results in Latin America, Europe and Asia (Mexico led with $20.8 million, followed by the U.K. with $19 million). In 26 countries, the movie delivered the biggest opening weekend of all time, including Mexico and Taiwan ($10.3 million).
The desire to see Walker one last time no doubt contributed greatly to Furious 7's stunning performance. Universal intended to open the seventh installment on July 11, 2014, but production was halted in November 2013 when Walker died in a tragic car crash during a Thanksgiving hiatus.
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