Weekend Report: ‘Fast and Furious’ Power Slides to Record Debut
by Brandon Gray
Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious
April 6, 2009
Revving way past its predecessors' redlines, Fast and Furious generated $71 million over the weekend, summarily dusting Anger Management's $42.2 million to notch the biggest April debut ever. Driven by the action sequel, the weekend as a whole was the busiest on record for April, grossing over $155 million and surging 62 percent ahead of the same weekend last year.
Packing more than 5,200 screens at 3,461 theaters under its hood, Fast and Furious outdrew the final tally of the franchise's previous movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, in three days flat, and it was much quicker off the line than the first two pictures. In 2001, The Fast and the Furious, scored $40.1 million out of the gate and hit $144.5 million by the end of its run. The sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, which featured the original's Paul Walker but was no longer Vin Diesel-fueled, accelerated to a $50.5 million opening and closed with $127.2 million. Sans Walker and Diesel, Tokyo Drift started at $24 million.
Not only did Fast and Furious have the highest-grossing opening for a car-themed movie (beating Cars' $60.1 million), it was also tops for a straight-forward action picture (as opposed to the superhero or fantastical kind), surpassing The Bourne Ultimatum's $69.3 million. What's more, during the January-to-April timeframe, only The Passion of the Christ had a larger-grossing debut in the past.
Fast and Furious was originally scheduled for a June release like its predecessors, but distributor Universal Pictures shifted it to April 3 back in December. That was a reversal of what happened with the first picture, which boldly moved from spring to summer back in 2001. "We're very aggressive with our release dates," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution. "Our group spends a lot of time looking at the competitive environment. We originally had The Wolfman on April 3, and when that wasn't ready, we convinced all involved to move Fast and Furious there. [This weekend]'s precedent-setting, it opens horizons and shows that if you build it, audiences will come."
Ms. Rocco credited moviegoers' regard for The Fast and the Furious and the return to that picture's story, characters and actors, as well as the marketing campaign and, of course, the cars, as the major factors in Fast and Furious' success. The Fast and Furious tagline was "New Model, Original Parts," and the advertising emphasized the return of actors Diesel, Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. While the ads displayed the typical blur of cars, girls and action, the trailers kicked off with extended action scenes to draw viewers back into the Fast and Furious world, including a foot chase through buildings that recalled The Bourne Ultimatum and Point Break (which The Fast and the Furious was essentially a remake of). The finale to many of the promotions was a computer-generated shot of Diesel power-sliding his car beneath a tumbling, fiery gas tanker, which was reminiscent of Diesel's past narrow escapes in the ads for XXX and The Chronicles of Riddick.
According to Universal's exit polling, 96 percent of the Fast and Furious audience had seen the first movie, 94 percent had seen the second and 89 percent had seen the third. The research further indicated that 57 percent of the audience was male and 59 percent was under 25 years old. By comparison, the first movie's composition in 2001 was 55 percent male and over three quarters under 25. Hispanics were Fast and Furious' most represented ethnicity at 46 percent, followed by Caucasians (28 percent), and the grade from moviegoer-tracker CinemaScore was an "A-," which was better than the "B" of the first movie.
Ranking second, Monsters Vs. Aliens retreated 45 percent to $32.6 million on approximately 7,700 screens at 4,109 sites. The drop was in line with past similar titles like Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Kung Fu Panda and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, and the computer-animated comedy's 3D presentations held up only slightly better than the normal ones. 3D comprised 57 percent of the weekend gross, and that included $3.1 million from 143 IMAX 3D venues, which was down 39 percent. With $104.8 million in ten days, Monsters Vs. Aliens is about to eclipse Watchmen, which evaporated 61 percent to $1.1 million and has made $105.3 million in 31 days.
I Love You, Man rounded out the Top Five with the best hold among nationwide releases. The comedy slipped 39 percent to $7.7 million for a $49.2 million tally in 17 days. Among like-minded movies, it had a bigger third weekend and gross-to-date than Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The weekend's other new nationwide release, Adventureland, was a non-starter with $5.7 million at 1,862 locations. The comedy's advertising pushed the fact that it was from the director of Superbad, yet the television spots focused mostly on nondescript juvenile gags. The result was an opening that was relatively worse than Waiting… and The Girl Next Door among comparable titles. Meanwhile, Sunshine Cleaning lost some of its sheen in its expansion to 479 theaters. The dark comedy picked up a modest $1.8 million for a $4.7 million total in 24 days of limited release.