‘Fu­ri­ous 7’ races past ex­pec­ta­tions with US$143.6 mil.

The China Post - - ARTS - BY LIND­SEY BAHR

The high-oc­tane “Fu­ri­ous 7” peeled out of the gates in its open­ing week­end, pick­ing up a stunning US$143.6 mil­lion from 4,004 lo­ca­tions to eas­ily top the U.S. box of­fice, ac­cord­ing to Ren­trak es­ti­mates Sun­day.

The ex­pec­ta­tion-shat­ter­ing sum is a stu­dio and fran­chise best for the home­grown car-ob­sessed se­ries, which has con­tin­ued to grow over the past few films.

“Fu­ri­ous 7,” now the ninth-big­gest open­ing of all time, also un­seats pre­vi­ous April record-holder “Cap­tain Amer­ica: The Win­ter Sol­dier,” which opened to US$95 mil­lion on the same week­end last year.

While the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” films have grown in pop­u­lar­ity over the past three films, the mega-open­ing for “Fu­ri­ous 7” was also at least par­tially tied to au­di­ence in­ter­est in star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in Novem­ber 2013 be­fore the film was com­pleted.

Pro­duc­tion on “Fu­ri­ous 7” was halted while the film­mak­ers and Uni­ver­sal de­cided whether or not to pro­ceed with the film. The team ul­ti­mately de­cided to de­lay the re­lease from its orig­i­nally sched­uled July 2014 date.

“It prob­a­bly cre­ated some cu­rios­ity, but, at the same time, (the film) fits in so well with the over­all con­tin­u­ing saga of the ‘Fast and Fu­ri­ous’ fran­chise,” Nick Car­pou, Uni­ver­sal’s pres­i­dent of do­mes­tic said of Walker.

“It’s a mo­ti­va­tor, but it’s not by any means the prime mo­ti­va­tor to see the movie,” he added.

There is also a sense that mas­sive open­ings like “Fu­ri­ous 7” point to the creep­ing ex­pan­sion of sum­mer block­buster sea­son, which seems to be start­ing ear­lier and ear­lier as stu­dios try to stake their claim on prime dates.

But for Car­pou, in a 52-week-ayear re­lease strat­egy, the de­mar­ca­tion of a sum­mer block­buster is al­most ir­rel­e­vant when it comes to get­ting au­di­ences to turn out in droves for a film.

“It’s that corny old adage that if you build it, they will come,” he said,

dis­tri­bu­tion, adding that the im­pres­sive Fe­bru­ary de­but of “Fifty Shades of Grey” helps prove his point. Paul Der­garabe­dian, Se­nior Me­dia An­a­lyst for box of­fice firm Ren­trak, thinks that this is a lib­er­at­ing trend for stu­dios who once clam­ored for the first week­end in May re­lease date.

“Stu­dios are find­ing tremen­dous value in putting their movies in non­tra­di­tional cor­ri­dors,” he said.

As the most am­bi­tious re­lease in Uni­ver­sal’s his­tory, “Fu­ri­ous 7” opened on 10,005 screens in­ter­na­tion­ally as well, pick­ing up US$240.4 mil­lion from 63 ter­ri­to­ries for a US$384 mil­lion world­wide de­but — a 48-per­cent in­crease over “Fast & Fu­ri­ous 6.”

The film will also de­but in Rus- sia, Poland, Ja­pan, and China in the com­ing weeks.

Holdovers pop­u­lated the rest of the top spots with Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion’s “Home” earn­ing US$27.4 to take a dis­tant sec­ond place. “Get Hard” brought in an es­ti­mated US$12.9 mil­lion, while “Cin­derella” and “The Diver­gent Se­ries: In­sur­gent” rounded out the top five with US$10.3 mil­lion and US$10 mil­lion, re­spec­tively.

But it’s all about “Fu­ri­ous 7” for the next few weeks. The film has the roads to it­self un­til Dis­ney and Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ul­tron” hits the­aters on May 1.

“This could be the first in the fran­chise to flirt with the bil­lion (U.S.) dollar mark,” Der­garabe­dian said.

AP

This photo pro­vided by Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures shows, from left, Tyrese Gibson as Ro­man, Michelle Ro­driguez as Letty, Paul Walker as Brian, and Chris Lu­dacris as Tej, in a scene from “Fu­ri­ous 7.”

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