The Fate of the Furious opening weekend just raised the bar for everyone
Here at DBP we don’t generally cover box office news. It’s just not that interesting to us. There are good films that flopped and terrible films that have made hundreds of millions. Box office results don’t necessarily reflect the film. This, however, is a little different.
The eighth film in the Fast and the Furious franchise, The Fate of the Furious, opened on Friday, April 14 (April 13 if you count Thursday night screenings), and it was a big opening (you can read our review here). A very big opening. In fact, it was the biggest opening weekend in movie history.
Over the weekend, the film earned $532 million globally, beating out Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, which itself shattered all previous records with $529 million when it opened in December 2015.
Although it probably won’t mean much to Universal and the filmmakers, there are a few asterisks by that figure. To start, the film’s record-setting opening was very much an international effort. Domestically, the film did well, but it was nowhere near record setting. It took in $98.7 mil in the US, making it the 44th best opening weekend of all time, three spots ahead of Fast & Furious 6, which opened with $97.3 mil but significantly less than Furious 7, which owns the 16th best domestic opening weekend with $147.1 mil.
Another important factor to consider is that The Fate and the Furious opened simultaneously around the world while many films stagger their global releases, in part to focus their marketing in waves. The Force Awakens didn’t open in China – the second biggest box office in the world – until a month later. That also means The Fate and the Furious set another impressive record with $433.2 million abroad, giving it the best international audience in history.
Long before the release of the eighth movie in the series Universal announced that it was planning for the franchise to continue through a tenth film at least. Without going into spoilers, the current film introduces a storyline that could easily carry it through two more films at least. This opening probably won’t cause Universal to make any changes to the formula, but don’t be surprised if there the studio pushes for more connections to China – actors, locations, cars, Chinese products, etc. – in later movies.
The opening also confirms a worldwide trend that has been developing for years now. The international results of a film have become just as important as the domestic, and in some cases are more important. Films like Warcraft and Pacific Rim were seen as underperforming in the US, but they both did very well overseas, especially in China. The future of Warcraft is uncertain, but a Pacific Rim sequel is filming now.
The release also confirms once again that the summer movie season isn’t necessarily the best time to release a blockbuster film. Star Wars has laid claim to the holiday season to huge results, Batman v Superman didn’t meet its lofty expectations but it still made $873.3 million globally with a March release, and the recent Beauty and the Beast opened in February and just crossed $1 billion and counting. Summer no longer holds the sway it once did.
The record-setting opening also shows that there’s less risk of franchise exhaustion than people have generally been concerned about. That’s not a huge surprise given how many sequels and franchise reboots we see each year, but the Fast and Furious franchise is 16 years old and eight movies deep and gives no indication of fading.
The Fate of the Furious will certainly have a drop off in ticket sales going into week two, but even if no one in the world goes to see it, it’s still a huge hit. It also confirms a few lessons for Hollywood going forward.