UPDATE 1-Box Office: 'Furious 7' Destroys Records With $143.6 Million Debut

Sun Apr 5, 2015 2:57pm EDT
 
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(Adds details, global box office)

By Brent Lang

LOS ANGELES, April 5 (Variety.com) - "Furious 7" raced to the top of the domestic box office, picking up a massive $143.6 million in its opening weekend.

That establishes a new high-water mark for the month of April, blowing past the $95 million debut of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and stands as the highest-grossing kick-off for any film in the "Fast and Furious" franchise. It also ranks ninth among the top ten openings in history.

Much as "The Dark Knight" turned into a memorial for Heath Ledger, audiences flocked to see star Paul Walker in one of his final roles. The actor died in a 2013 car crash at the age of 40 and his work on the film was completed using digital technology and a series of stand-ins.

"This is a bittersweet installment in the franchise," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "[Walker's] passing made this movie more intriguing for people who hadn't seen some of the installments. It raised awareness and its success is a tribute to him."

Universal Pictures spared no expense in bringing the latest chapter in the fast cars and gravity-defying-stunts series to the big screen, shelling out $190 million on the production. It unspooled in 4,003 North American theaters, earning $14 million on 365 Imax screens and $11.5 million from premium large format screens. Going into the weekend, most analysts estimated that the film would open in the $115 million range.

Foreign numbers were steroidal. Internationally, the film rolled out across 10,500 screens in 63 territories, earning $240.4 million.

"This is the next member of the billion dollar club and that's a rarefied place to be," said Contrino. "This thing is on fire."   Continued...