Forecast: 'Fast Five' Fever
Friday update: Fast Five racked up $3.8 milllion in its midnight opening at 1,132 locations. That more than doubled the $1.8 million midnight launch of Fast and Furious and became distributor Universal Pictures' biggest midnight start ever.

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This weekend, Fast Five aims to start the summer movie season a week early, despite Thor technically getting the nod next weekend, but the car-racing/heist sequel will no doubt deliver the biggest end-of-April opening ever (A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) is the current high at $32.9 million). It will also challenge the last Fast and Furious for overall April opening weekend supremacy. Fast and Furious debuted in early April 2009 to the tune of $71 million, reinvigorating the franchise by reassembling the original players after Tokyo Drift spun out. It got lousy mileage after that, running out of gas at $155 million, but it stood as the franchise's highest-grossing entry and ranked second to the first movie, The Fast and the Furious, in estimated attendance. Clash of the Titans (2010) slots second among all-time April debuts with $61.2 million.

Again featuring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker but less car racing, Fast Five has been pitched as a franchise "all-stars" heist movie with eye-popping car-oriented action scenes as well as a showdown between Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, who joins the cast as a new antagonist. Fast Five's the second movie of the month with a Rio de Janeiro setting, following Rio, and, curiously, the unrealized sequel to another car-oriented heist movie, The Italian Job, was supposed to be The Brazilian Job.

Cognizant of the slow times at the box office, Fast Five's ads have beckoned "If you've been waiting for a reason to go to the movies, we've got five." It will soon be known if audiences have been biding time for something worth seeing or if they're out of the movie-going habit. One eyebrow-raising moment in the movie's ads is when the title shows Fast Five but the voiceover says "Fast and Furious 5."

Fast Five races into 3,643 locations (including 244 IMAX venues), surpassing Fast and Furious's 3,461 as the franchise's broadest launch. The weekend's other nationwide debuts are teen comedy Prom at 2,730 locations, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil at 2,505 locations (three quarters of which will show it in 3D) and horror comedy Dylan Dog: Dead of Night at 875 locations.

Bluntly tackling the main event of many a teen comedy and drama, Prom counter-programs Fast Five and targets young females. Its generic, ensemble approach may not be enough to stir strong interest, even though it's designed to broaden appeal. Perhaps recognizing the need for a central storyline, ads have focused on the perennial good girl / bad boy couple, which looks faintly reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You.

Following Red Riding Hood as the second Little Red Riding Hood movie of the season, Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil, hits theaters more than five years after its predecessor Hoodwinked grossed a solid $51.4 million. The Shrek knock-off didn't make enough of a lasting impression with audiences to sustain the wait, and the sequel's animation looks rudimentary and almost like a video game in its ads. Said ads rely on the action music from Kill Bill Vol. 1 and an incoherent, storyless blur of gags, and they rattle off the voice actors (which audiences don't care about) in a slapdash fashion, starting with Bill Hader and Amy Poehler (both unseen) and then followed by low-definition studio shots of Glenn Close, Hayden Panettiere and Heidi Klum. What's more, Hoodwinked Too! marks the fifth animated nationwide release of the year so far (not counting Hop) and it arrives in the wake of Rio, so it's hard to imagine many tykes dragging their fatigued parents to this one.

In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" polling, Fast Five grabbed a sizzling 38 percent "opening weekend" score, surpassing Fast and Furious's 28.9 percent. Hoodwinked Too! and Prom were negligible relative to their genres, registering "opening weekend" scores of 4.2 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. Based on these and other pre-weekend indicators and historical antecedents, here's how the weekend might play out:

The Forecast, April 29-May 1

1. Fast Five - $75 million

2. Rio - $15 million

3. Water for Elephants - $10 million

4. Madea - $9.5 million

5. Prom - $9 million

  • Hoodwinked Too! - $6 million

Bar for Success

As a sequel, Fast Five will largely be judged on how well it retains Fast and Furious's business, and some erosion is generally acceptable. Opening in at least the mid-$60 million range would give Fast Five a passable grade. Prom is the type of movie that should be starting at around $12 million on the low end to get a pass, while Hoodwinked Too! needs to hit the low teen millions as well.

Comps for:

'Fast Five'

'Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil'