After beating every record in sight, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s Fate of the Furious has emerged as biggest worldwide box office opener of all time. But it still failed to live up to the trade expectations.
The eighth installment in the Fast and the Furious is on the path to becoming the biggest worldwide debut of all time, besting both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World. Universal Pictures on Sunday estimated that The Fate of the Furious’ would earn a record $532.5 million worldwide over the holiday weekend, thanks to a particularly robust showing in 63 territories, including China. If the figures hold, it will just inch past the previous record holder, Star Wars: The Force Awakens which launched to $529 million in December of 2015 without China. The film broke the record for biggest international weekend ever, with $432.3 million. The previous record holder was Jurassic World with $316.7 million.
“There is no market that hasn’t had a strong reception,” said Duncan Clark, Universal’s president of international distribution. “Whatever culture, whatever language, whatever country, we seem to have found a home.” The China opening alone brought in a record $190 million followed by $17.8 million from Mexico and $17 million from the UK and Ireland.
An estimated $100.2 million of the global total comes from 4,310 North American theaters — a second best for the franchise and enough to easily top the domestic charts, but well below the $147.2 million opening of Furious 7 in 2015. Domestically, there are indications that a franchise centered on muscle cars and physics-defying stunts, has crested.
There are important reasons for the fall off. Furious 7 served as a memorial of sorts to Paul Walker, the franchise star whose 2013 death in a car accident shattered his co-stars and many fans. This time, there wasn’t the same emotional resonance. The Fate of the Furious continues the franchise without Walker, adding in series newcomers such as Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.’
Then there was the off-screen drama. This film had to contend with reports of off-screen tension between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson that undermined one of the franchise’s key selling points — that these films are celebrations of family and brotherhood. Both stars steered clear of each other at the picture’s New York premiere and Diesel’s attempt to brush aside the reports of a beef between the actors left something to be desired.
Reviews were also weaker. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich labeled the film the worst of the series, while the Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang argued the franchise had jumped the shark, or in this case, the nuclear submarine. That’s not to say there weren’t some loud advocates. Variety’s Owen Glieberman, for instance, praised the picture as a “dazzling action spectacle.” Audiences agreed, handing “The Fate of the Furious” an A CinemaScore.
Beyond Johnson, Diesel, Mirren, and Theron, The Fate of the Furious brings back franchise veterans Kurt Russell, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, and Michelle Rodriguez. The film follows the crew as they grapple with Diesel’s betrayal and alliance with a mysterious hacker (Theron). Universal didn’t provide a budget, but sources peg the cost at $250 million, making it the most expensive chapter in the series. Despite the rising costs, the film remains on pace to top $1 billion worldwide, making more sequels a certainty.
For the studio, Fast 8 stands on its own as being “an extraordinary result.”
“Each one of these films has its own momentum,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “There are factors from one film to the next that make them unique and certainly there were unique factors with Furious 7.” The Fate of the Furious” has many of the returning stars like Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese and Ludacris, but has added some new elements behind the camera in director F. Gary Gray and in front of the camera with Charlize Theron.
The $100.2 million is slightly below analyst expectations for the film. Audiences were 58 percent male, 50 percent under the age of 25 and diverse (41 percent were Caucasian, 26 percent Hispanic and 19 percent African American). The studio has not released an official production budget, but it is reported to be in the pricey $250 million range. However, an A Cinema Score from exit polls suggest that it will have sufficient staying power.
The Fast and the Furious’ is a global juggernaut for Universal Pictures, which plans two additional pictures. With the addition of Fast 8, the franchise has earned an estimated $4.4 billion globally. “It is a franchise that has adapted and changed over the years and is as relevant in 2017 as it was in 2001,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for comScore. “The `Furious’ franchise perfectly represents what that global audience is all about. They’re poised perfectly for installments 9 and 10 to do very well. It’s still firing on all cylinders.”