Forecast: 'Furious 7' to Race Past $100 Million This Weekend
Friday AM Update: Furious 7 got off to a fantastic start last night, earning a massive $15.8 million from late night shows beginning at 7 p.m. That's over twice as much as the last Fast movie earned from its Thursday night showings ($6.5 million beginning at 10 p.m.).

This is easily the biggest late night start so far in 2015. Compared to 2014 releases, it trails Mockingjay's $17 million, but is much higher than Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($10.2 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($11.2 million).

Based on this Thursday number, it's a foregone conclusion that Furious 7 earns over $100 million this weekend. It it follows Captain America's pattern—from the same weekend last year—it will wind up with over $140 million. A more likely result is something in the $120 to $130 million range.

Forecast: The seventh installment in the Fast & Furious franchise has a real shot at setting a new April opening weekend record when it opens in over 4,000 theaters this weekend.

The current record is held by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which took in $95 million on this same weekend last year. Furious 7's predecessor, Fast & Furious 6, earned $97 million in its debut two years ago; it's tough to imagine Furious 7 opening much lower than that.

The history of the franchise is well-known at this point, but a quick recap seems in order anyway. In Summer 2001, moderately-budgeted street racing movie The Fast and the Furious became a huge hit in the U.S. with $144.5 million. The franchise stalled a bit after that: a sequel without Vin Diesel did fine business, while a spin-off lacking either of the original cast members disappointed with $62.5 million.

Eight years after the original, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel both reprised their roles in Fast and Furious, which opened to a surprising $71 million on its way to a $155.1 million total. Fast Five took the franchise to the next level with $209.8 million in the U.S. and $416 million overseas (twice as much as its predecessor). The series continued to grow with Fast & Furious 6, which earned $239 million domestically and a stunning $550 million internationally.

There's a realistic chance that Furious 7 becomes the highest-grossing installment yet in the 14-year-old franchise. Marketing has made clear that this is the biggest, craziest outing yet: there's more outrageous action, more crazy stunts, and a solid helping of one-liners to go with it. There's also a larger cast, including all franchise favorites and a handful of exciting newcomers (Jason Statham, Kurt Russell). In spite of all of that, advertisements overtly suggest that the franchise hasn't forgotten the theme that's resonated so much with moviegoers. As Diesel's character points out: "I don't have friends, I got family."

There's also a sense of finality surrounding this outing. Marketing material features the phrase "one last ride," which implies that this is, in fact, the last Fast & Furious movie (the chances of that actually happening is slim, but still). More importantly, the movie features Paul Walker's final performance after he tragically passed away in November 2013.

Production on Furious 7 was shut down immediately, and resumed months later with an altered script and with Walker's brothers serving as body doubles. The fact that this is Walker's final role—and that the movie reportedly goes to great lengths to pay tribute to him—makes this a must-see for even the most casual fans of the franchise.

The last Fast movie opened to $97.4 million over Memorial Day weekend in 2013. As of the last report, Furious 7 is outselling that installment by 34 percent on It's also outselling Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Fandango. Universal also seems very optimistic, indicating that their tracking data points toward this being the biggest outing yet in the franchise.

Furious 7's biggest obstacle could be its non-theatrical competition. On Saturday, it faces the NCAA Final Four games; on Sunday, it goes up against the Easter holiday. It's practically a foregone conclusion that it makes over 40 percent of its weekend gross on Friday (that includes Thursday evening).

Furious 7 also opens in 63 markets this weekend, including all of the major ones except China, Japan and Russia (all of which will open in the next three weeks). The last installment earned $550 million overseas; while there's almost certainly more demand this time around, grosses could be suppressed by unfavorable exchange rates throughout Europe and Latin America. Still, a $500-million-plus haul seems all-but-guaranteed.

After playing at 28 locations on Wednesday and Thursday, The Woman in Gold expands to 258 theaters on Friday. Reviews aren't so hot—as of Thursday afternoon, it was 48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—but Helen Mirren has plenty of fans, and this is the type of subject matter that has solid appeal with older moviegoers. A weekend gross north of $1 million is likely.

Forecast (April 3-5)

1. Furious 7 - $110 million

2. Home - $28 million (-45%)

3. Get Hard - $16.5 million (-50%)

4. Insurgent - $12.5 million (-42%)

5. Cinderella - $10.5 million (-38%)

Bar for Success

Considering how successful the last few installments were, the latest entry in the Fast & Furious series doesn't really need to improve on its predecessor. Anything above $90 million should be considered a win.

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