Need for speed drives summer box office in US
Transformers franchise raked in worldwide box office
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s love affair with automobiles continues.
A look at July’s box-office grosses shows three carthemed movies racing to the Top 10: Transformers: The Last Knight ($128 million), Cars 3 ($146 million) and Baby Driver ($89 million).
While the rest of the world was slow to warm to cars, Americans have embraced them with a vengeance ever since Henry Ford’s revolutionary moving assembly line made them affordable.
And though China went on to become the largest automobile manufacturer, by far the longest love affair with auto has been with the United States — Hollywood in particular.
US TV host Jay Leno, whose 150-piece, multimillion-dollar car collection is legendary, says, “Cars are part of the American dream, and Hollywood gets that.”
Automobiles have been the go-to device for thrills, chills, action and intimacy. Hollywood starts our engines young, with family classics like Dick Van Dyke’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), then rolls into Pixar’ s lovable 3-D animated phenomenon, Cars, Cars 2 and Cars 3, and picks up speed with the Herbie — Love Bug tweener franchise (19682005).
The car mania was further fueled by films that inspired a generation of teenagers packing a learner’s permit and yearning for “roll” models.
The low-budget, Oscarnominated Smokey and the Bandit (1977) peeled out with a whopping $127 million at the box office and TV’s Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider and Chips ruled the metaphoric streets all through the 1980s.
Hollywood can effortlessly shift gears, with coming-ofage movies like the George Lucas classic American Graffiti (1972) and Penny Marshall’s Riding in Cars with Boys (2001).
Given the importance of cars in daily life, is it any wonder that nothing grabs our attention faster than a catastrophic car crash?
Aykroyd and Belushi smashed 70 cars in the Blues Brothers (1980); Need For Speed (2014) was purported to pile up a collector’s ransom of tortured steel, ranging from a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento and Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to a lean, mean McLaren P1.
And it’s no surprise that Paul Haggis drove off with a best picture Oscar for Crash (2004).
Cars are endlessly evocative. Like the factory molds that create them, we shape them in our own image, imbuing them with every symbolic nuance under the sun.
As Vin Diesel so aptly puts it in The Fast and the Furious: “I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters — not the mortgage, not the store, not my team ... For those 10 seconds or less, I’m free.”
In Hollywood, cars are not just sexy status symbols or poignant plot devices — they are box-office gold. Car-centric franchises have rocked the tollbooth, raking in millions, even billions, in revenues worldwide, such as the Transformers ($1.5 billion) and the Fast & Furious ($1.5 billion).
On the racetrack, while Warner Bros’ Speed Racer may have run out of gas at $44 million, Ron Howard’s Rush handily crossed the finish line with $90 million, and Will Farrell’s hilarious Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby flagged in $148 million.
“I’ve always had a fascination with cars and racing. I love to get behind the wheel and get competitive ... It helps you focus and dedicate yourself to doing what’s needed,” says German carenthusiast and Hollywood star, Jason Statham.
No matter which car flick gets a greenlight next, one thing is certain: Hollywood feels the need for speed.