World Box Office March 30-April 5
When The Fast and the Furious first hit theaters, it was the year 2001, no one at Universal dared to think that the movie was franchise material. Yes, illegal street racing was an original and appealing concept, but how far could you push what even its producers considered a B-movie? On top of that, there were no major stars, the biggest names being Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster. And then there was a promising new actor called Paul Walker, playing an undercover cop named Brian O’Conner whose loyalty was divided between the LAPD and the gangs he was meant to take down.
Fifteen years, seven installments and many, many street races in all corners of the planet later, The Fast and the Furious has turned out to be a fantastic and lasting success, its colorful cast a testament to the fact that the love for cars and for car racing knows no language and no ethnic or cultural barriers. Even before the launch during this Easter weekend of Furious 7, it had cumulatively earned a total gross of $2.3 billion. The seventh installment of the series is now in line to add another cool billion to that already impressive number. In the U.S., 4,003 theaters (a record for Universal) generated $147.2 million. Add foreign and we are now in Harry Potter and The Avengers territory: 63 countries produced over $245 million dollars, with major markets like China, Russia and Japan still to open. Its biggest territory was Mexico with $21 million, followed by the UK with $19 million, Germany with 15, then France and Australia, Argentina, Korea, Italy, Malaysia and Spain. Number 7 is outpacing any other title in the franchise and is well ahead of Furious 6, which ended its run with $789 million worldwide. Furious ‘s cast includes Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham as the villain. A multi-ethnic choice that has paid off, by attracting an audience that was 75% non-Caucasian and 37% Hispanic, 25% Caucasian, 24% African-American, 10% Asian and 4% listed as “other”. There was also the Paul Walker factor. The film was scheduled to launch in July last year, but in November of 2013 the actor died in a car accident, hitting a lamppost in Valencia, California, at 100 miles per hour. Universal stopped production immediately and for a while it looked like there would be no 7 anymore. But a few months later production resumed, with his two brothers Caleb and Cody standing in for the late Paul and director James Wan using footage from earlier films to create a very emotional last scene. Universal also made use of the services of Weta, Peter Jackson‘s special effects house, proving once again that any actor can be recreated digitally and re-fueling the debate over if actors are actually really needed.
With numbers so huge, Easter weekend left little room for anyone else. On its second outing, DreamWorks Animation’s Home managed $27.4 million, for a worldwide cume of $180 million. Also on its second week, Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell’s comedy Get Hard fell pretty hard: it made just $12.9 at home and about $15 million abroad, with a total so far of $67 million. Number 4 was Cinderella, which added about $10 million domestically and has reached a worldwide total of close to $400 million. Following at number 5 was Insurgent, which crossed the $100 million mark at home and has accumulated so far an extra $120 million overseas. Next was horror flic It Follows. Then we see The Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds: in just 250 theaters domestically, it managed to attract the adult audience by grossing a healthy $2 million. But this was Furious’s weekend – and Universal’s. On top of its Furious bonanza, on Good Friday the studio also got to celebrate another milestone: Fifty Shades of Grey crossed the $400 million mark overseas, for a global cume of $566 million.