"Fast & Furious" speeds to No. 1 worldwide

Sun Apr 5, 2009 2:38pm EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Fast & Furious," the fourth film in Universal Pictures' hot-rodding franchise, raced to the top spot at the worldwide box office as movie fans with a need for speed snapped up an estimated $102.6 million worth of tickets, the studio said on Sunday.

In the United States and Canada, the picture earned $72.5 million during its first three days, smashing "Monsters vs. Aliens'" week-old record for the best opening of the year.

The film already has earned more than the previous installment, 2006's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," which opened with $24 million and ended up making $62.5 million.

While Universal knew the sagging series was destined for a spectacular boost, its forecasts pointed to an opening in the $50 million range. The highly anticipated reunion of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker -- the stars of the 2001 original -- cost about $85 million to make, the studio said.

"We knew there was a great buzz from the get-go," said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution at the General Electric Co-owned studio. "The marketing plan was spot-on about how exciting this rendition was."

Critics thought the film was a wreck, and Diesel and Walker have hardly lit up the box office in recent years. But forgiving audiences gave "Fast & Furious" the green light in post-screening surveys. Not surprisingly, it skewed toward male youngsters. Hispanics accounted for 46 percent of ticket-buyers, followed by whites with 28 percent.

FOREIGN HAUL $30.1 MILLION

Internationally, "Fast & Furious" earned $30.1 million from 31 markets, opening at No. 1 in most of them, Universal said. Highlights included Germany with $6.5 million, Mexico with $4 million and Spain with $3.6 million. In Thailand, 65 percent of all moviegoers saw the film, which earned $1.2 million.

The film adds 19 markets next weekend, including Britain, France and Russia.   Continued...

 
<p>Actors Paul Walker (L) and Jordana Brewster pose during a photocall to promote "Fast &amp; Furious" in Madrid March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>