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In this age of sequelitis, Universal’s Fast and the Furious franchise remains a well-oiled machine even as its engine slows somewhat in the U.S.
Over the weekend, The Fate of the Furious grossed a record-busting $532 million globally, passing up Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($529 million) to secure the biggest worldwide launch of all time. The movie grossed $98.8 million domestically and an all-time best of $433.2 million overseas (the previous foreign record-holder was fellow Universal title Jurassic World with $316.7 million). Sitting in the drivers’s seat was China with a record-shattering $192.1 million.
Final numbers varied slightly from Sunday estimates, which showed the film earning $100.2 million domestically and $432.2 million overseas for a global total of $532.5 million.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, Furious 8 also delivered the biggest opening ever for an African-American director, and is only the second film of the year so far to launch north of $100 million domestically, following Beauty and the Beast.
Still, in North America Fate of the Furious came in 30 percent behind the $147.2 million debut of Furious 7, whose release was delayed until April 2015 following the tragic death of franchise star Paul Walker in November 2013 during a hiatus from shooting.
“Comparing Furious 8‘s domestic opening to Furious 7 is somewhat unfair. There was an emotional outpouring of support for that movie that was the definition of lightening in a bottle,” says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comSocre. “Furious 7 is the second-best debut of the franchise. That is rather astounding for a series that is eight movies into its run.”
Another big difference between the two films: Fewer females in North America turned out to see Furious 8 on opening weekend. Universal estimates that male ticket buyers represented 58 percent of the audience, compared with 51 percent for both Furious 7 and Furious 6.
The fan base is also aging in North America. Moviegoers under the age of 25 made up 50 percent of Furious 8‘s audience, compared with 64 percent for Furious 7 and 54 percent for Furious 6. And moviegoers between the ages of 13 and 17 made up just 14 percent of ticket buyers, compared with 17 percent for Furious 7.
The Fast and Furious series has long been heralded for its diverse cast. Furious 8 played to audiences of all ethnicities in a big way. Domestically, Caucasians made up 41 percent of the audience, followed by Hispanics (26 percent), African Americans (21 percent), Asians (11 percent) and Native American/Other (3 percent), according to comScore’s exit polling service PostTrack.
That diversity also continued to pay off overseas, along with a globe-trotting storyline about a villainous superhacker (Charlize Theron) who turns Vin Diesel’s character against his crew. Returning castmembers include Dwayne Johnson — who famously feuded with Diesel on set — Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Kurt Russell. Newcomers include Theron alongside Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood.
“The concept and point of view has always been like catnip to hip and diverse audiences who all speak the international language of fast cars, beautiful people, high-octane action and cross-cultural camaraderie,” says Dergarabedian.
Unlike Force Awakens or many other Hollywood tentpoles, Furious 8 had the advantage of opening day and date in China, where it nabbed the biggest-three opening of all time and came in almost three times ahead of Furious 7 ($64 million).
“A film like Furious 8 gives Chinese patrons exactly what they are looking for. Not to mention that Imax is a monster in China and helped exponentially grow the grosses,” Dergarabedian says.
Overall, the tentpole debuted at No. 1 in all 63 foreign markets where it opened, and it did more business than any previous installment in 32 of those, including many markets in Latin America.
Furious 7, which didn’t launch day and date in China, opened to $250.5 million overseas. Even when taking away its China gross, Furious 8 opened almost on par with Furious 7 offshore.
“We may have another case,” says Wall Street analyst Erik Handler of MKM partners, “where domestic has plateaued but international continues to grow.”
April 17, 10:50 a.m. Updated with final weekend numbers.
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