Box Office: 'Furious 7' destroys records with $143.6 million debut
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (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."
With an A CinemaScore and strong reviews, "Furious 7" could be one of the few modern blockbusters that hangs on for more than a few weeks. The month of April is lean on blockbuster fare and "Furious 7" won't get serious competition until "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" debuts on May 1. Continued...