‘Fu­ri­ous 7’ still in driver’s seat

Ac­tion flick spends an­other week­end at No. 1, with ‘Home’ a dis­tant sec­ond.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Yvonne Vil­lar­real yvonne.vil­lar­real@la­times.com

The film roared to an­other big week­end at the box of­fice.

“Fu­ri­ous 7” again raced to the top spot at the box of­fice this past week­end.

The lat­est in­stall­ment from the Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures fran­chise dom­i­nated ticket sales with an es­ti­mated $60.6 mil­lion in the U.S. and Canada in its sec­ond week­end — a ro­bust num­ber de­spite a 59% drop from its de­but week­end.

When fac­tored in with its $143.6-mil­lion open­ing, the sec­ond-week­end re­ceipts pushed the film’s to­tal to $252.5 mil­lion — the high­est ever for the fran­chise.

The film, which had a $190-mil­lion price tag, crossed the $200-mil­lion mark in just eight days, sur­pass­ing the stu­dio’s pre­vi­ous record for reach­ing that mile­stone, set in 2013 by “De­spi­ca­ble Me 2” in 11 days.

Di­rected by James Wan (“Saw,” “In­sid­i­ous,” “The Con­jur­ing”), “Fu­ri­ous 7” passed $800 mil­lion world­wide in less than two weeks, with a big boost com­ing from China.

The ac­tion film opened in first place in China on Sun­day with an es­ti­mated $68.6 mil­lion, the high­est one-day gross ever for the coun­try.

The fi­nal film for the late ac­tor Paul Walker, “Fu­ri­ous 7” fills out its en­sem­ble with Vin Diesel, Chris “Lu­dacris” Bridges, Ja­son Statham, Dwayne John­son and Michelle Ro­driguez. They reach high speeds in Los An­ge­les, Lon­don, Tokyo, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Abu Dhabi.

Walker died in a car crash away from pro­duc­tion in Novem­ber 2013, and the re­lease date was pushed back from July 2014. Com­puter ef­fects were used to com­plete Walker’s re­main­ing scene, and his broth­ers Caleb and Cody were brought in as stand-ins.

Cu­rios­ity about how the film would han­dle Walker’s death likely helped ticket sales, though Ni­cholas Car­pou, Uni­ver­sal’s head of do­mes­tic dis­tri­bu­tion, said fan in­ter­est was a big­ger fac­tor open­ing week­end.

“While cu­rios­ity could be a fac­tor, the first week­end would have been the one to quench that thirst,” Car­pou said. “But what we’re see­ing in some cases is that peo­ple are see­ing it mul­ti­ple times. … There’s tremen­dous in­ter­est on what this group of char­ac­ters does next and what ex­ploits they un­dergo.”

Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion’s “Home” landed in sec­ond place in its third week­end with $19 mil­lion, while this week­end’s ro­mance new­comer “The Long­est Ride” roped in the No. 3 spot.

The adap­ta­tion of the Ni­cholas Sparks tale, star­ring Scott East­wood and Britt Robert­son, brought in $13.5 mil­lion — in line with pro­jec­tions.

The 20th Cen­tury Fox film, about a rodeo star who ro­mances a col­lege stu­dent, cost $34 mil­lion to make and per­formed bet­ter than the most re­cent Sparks’ adap­ta­tion, “The Best of Me,” which opened in Oc­to­ber to $10 mil­lion.

Still, “The Long­est Ride” num­bers were low for a Sparks adap­ta­tion. “Safe Haven” took in $21.4 mil­lion in its 2013 open­ing, and “The Lucky One” opened at $22.5 mil­lion in 2012.

“As the film moves for­ward and word of mouth spreads, things will pick up,” Chris Aron­son, Fox’s head of dis­tri­bu­tion, said of “The Long­est Ride.” “There’s a clear play­ing field ahead for a ro­man­tic film. And we saw that its strong suit was be­tween the coasts.”

Though it didn’t find love with crit­ics, au­di­ences gave it an “A” rat­ing with the polling firm Cinema Score. As Aron­son noted, ticket sales were strong in Mid­dle Amer­ica and, as ex­pected, the au­di­ence skewed fe­male (73%).

“Get Hard,” the pri­son com­edy star­ring Will Fer­rell and Kevin Hart, came in fourth with $8.6 mil­lion in its third week­end. The Warner Bros. R-rated com­edy, which cost $40 mil­lion, has grossed $71.2 mil­lion.

PG-rated “Cin­derella,” mean­while, rounded out the top five with $7.2 mil­lion. The Dis­ney live-ac­tion film has brought in a do­mes­tic to­tal of $180.8 mil­lion dur­ing its five weeks in the­aters.

In limited re­lease, the well-re­viewed ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence thriller “Ex Machina” opened with an im­pres­sive $62,489 per-screen-av­er­age. The film, which marks the di­rec­to­rial de­but of “28 Days Later” writer Alex Gar­land, will ex­pand to more the­aters April 24.

Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures

WHILE CRIT­ICS didn’t love “Fu­ri­ous 7,” au­di­ences have been en­thu­si­as­tic, giv­ing it an “A” rat­ing.

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