The turbo-charged racing sequel Fast & Furious crushed its competitors and blew away all industry expectations with a launch that shattered the April opening weekend box office record. And with the animated hit Monsters vs. Aliens still doing solid business in its second frame, the overall marketplace powered its way to the highest-grossing April session ever. Together, the two juggernauts grossed more this weekend than the entire marketplace did during this same frame in 2008 continuing a scorching hot year for movie ticket sales.
Universal won first place by an enormous margin with the heavily-hyped Fast & Furious which bowed to an estimated $72.5M from 3,461 theaters for an eye-popping $20,950 average. It was easily the biggest debut of the year racing past the $59.3M of Monsters from just last weekend, and it smashed the old record for April openers held by Anger Management with $42.2M in 2003. The fourth installment in the popular racing series even posted the second largest debut ever in the entire January-to-April corridor trailing only The Passion of the Christ‘s $83.8M from February 2004. It was a summer-like opening in the middle of spring.
The new Fast not only sped past the opening weekend grosses of all previous installments in the franchise, but it also attracted a larger audience even when ticket price increases are factored in. Openings for the lucrative series included $40.1M for 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, $50.5M for 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, and $24M for 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which featured a new cast and setting. At today’s ticket prices, those figures would amount to roughly $52M, $61M, and $27M respectively. In just three days, the new Fast even beat Tokyo Drift‘s overall total of $62.5M. With a combined $334M domestically from the first three models, the Furious franchise could now soar past the $500M mark.
The wild success this weekend can be attributed to many factors including marketing, the release date, and the casting. Universal had a tough job convincing fans to take a fourth trip with the decade-old franchise and so the four primary cast members of the first surprise hit were brought back together with a brilliant campaign led by the appealing tagline “New Model. Original Parts.” The cool factor was back. Moviegoers were drawn in by the starpower and the promise of a true adrenaline rush. The studio also made a bold move shifting the release date from June 12 where it would have faced intense summer competition, to early April where the road was clear of any traffic. The PG-13 pic had teens and young adults all to itself this weekend. And the whole industry will benefit since millions of movie fans saw trailers for the first wave of summer blockbusters.
For the weekend, Fast surged to a jaw-dropping $30.5M on Friday, then fell 19% to $24.7M on Saturday, and is estimated to drop by 30% on Sunday to $17.3M. College basketball semi-finals cut into some business with young males on Saturday night. If Universal’s estimate holds, it will rank as the studio’s biggest debut ever. That record is still held by Steven Spielberg’s 1997 dino-sequel The Lost World which bowed to $72.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its holiday opening (or $115M at today’s prices.) Should Fast see a more common Sunday decline of 35-40%, it would still rake in $70M over the weekend. Final box office data including actual Sunday sales figures will be reported on Monday.
The Vin Diesel–Paul Walker reunion also opened overseas in 32 international territories this weekend and banked another $30.1M for a global launch of $102.6M. Many top markets are still to come including Russia, France, and the United Kingdom which all open next weekend.
After its top spot debut last weekend, the DreamWorks Animation hit Monsters vs. Aliens fell to second place but still attracted a large audience dropping 44% to an estimated $33.5M haul. Compared to other big March toons, the decline fell in between the 35% sophomore dip of Ice Age in 2002 and the 50% fall of its sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown in 2006. The ten-day tally for Monsters rose to $105.7M which is 9% behind the pace of Meltdown after the same period of time but up 21% over the first Ice Age. Ginormica and pals may find themselves battling their way to the neighborhood of $175M domestically.
The spookfest The Haunting in Connecticut fell a sharp 59% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.6M settling into third place. Lionsgate’s hit thriller has banked an impressive $37.2M in ten days and looks headed for a $50M finish.
Nicolas Cage saw his latest action entry Knowing fall 45% to an estimated $8.1M giving Summit $58.2M after 17 days of release. Over the same time period, Paramount’s raunchy comedy I Love You, Man has collected $49.3M thanks to an estimated $7.9M this weekend. For the second frame in a row, the R-rated laugher posted the smallest decline in the top ten.
The new theme park comedy Adventureland debuted to mild results with an estimated $6M opening from 1,862 locations. Averaging a lukewarm $3,228 per theater, the R-rated coming-of-age pic starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart earned very strong reviews but failed to capitalize on them at the multiplexes. Its target audience of older teens and young adults were clearly distracted by fast cars this weekend. Adventureland bowed to $2.2M on Friday, remained flat on Saturday with $2.2M again, and is estimated by Miramax to slip by a very low 22% on Sunday to $1.7M.
The spy comedy Duplicity starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen dropped 44% to an estimated $4.3M pushing the total to $32.4M for Universal. Following in eighth was Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain with an estimated $3.4M, down 42%, for a $58.4M sum. The John Cena actioner 12 Rounds tumbled 57% in its sophomore effort to an estimated $2.3M giving Fox a weak ten-day cume of only $9M.
The indie comedy hit Sunshine Cleaning starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt expanded again in its fourth weekend and jumped into the top ten right at number ten grossing an estimated $1.9M. Averaging a respectable $3,923 from 479 sites, the Overture release has successfully widened its run throughout the country each week and has upped the total to $4.8M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $149.4M which was up a stunning 96% from last year when 21 remained in the top spot with $15.3M; and up a sizable 43% from 2007 when Blades of Glory stayed at number one with $22.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya