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Fast Five: Paul Walker-Vin Diesel Action Franchise Biggest Universal Opening?

Jordana Brewster, Fast Five
Fast Five with Jordana Brewster.

May 2 update: Starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne Johnson, Justin Lin’s Fast Five grossed $86.2 million – about $2.5 million more than Sunday estimates – this past weekend (April 29–May 1) at the North American box office, including $3.8 million from Thursday midnight screenings, according to actuals found at

Ignoring higher ticket prices, Fast Five had Universal’s biggest three-day debut weekend ever. Taking that minor detail into account, however, we see that Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which opened with $72.1 million in late May 1997, would have taken in approximately $126 million today.

Not taking inflation and higher IMAX ticket prices into account, this marks April’s biggest opening ever, beating Fast & Furious’ $71 million two years ago (or about $76 million today).

Once again, totally ignoring higher ticket prices, Fast Five‘s debut marks Universal’s biggest domestic opening ever. (That’s the studio behind recent expensive flops such as Paul Greengrass-Matt Damon’s Green Zone and Anthony Hopkins-Benicio Del Toro’s The Wolfman.) The previous record holder was another sequel, Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which opened to the tune of $72.13 million in late May 1997. But if one bothers to take inflation into account – as one should – The Lost World pulled in approximately $126 million in 2011 dollars.* Which makes Fast Five‘s record look considerably less record breaking.

Fast Five wasn’t the only movie with – something unusual – “deflated” Sunday estimates. Both Carlos Saldanha’s Rio and the Robert Pattinson-Reese Witherspoon-Christoph Waltz romantic drama Water for Elephants performed better than originally thought.

Of course, Fast Five had the biggest 2011 opening to date, earning more than the combined debut-weekend grosses of Rio and Rango, $39.22 million and $38.07 million, respectively. Inflation doesn’t play a role here, though Rio had the advantage of earning about 55 percent of its take at costlier 3D theaters.

Rio, featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, collected $14.8 million ($400,000 more than estimated). The 3D animated feature passed the $100 million milestone on Sunday, reaching a cume of $104 million.

At no. 3, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, featuring Perry, Loretta Devine, Isaiah Mustafa, and Bow Wow, earned $9.9 million.

May 1 afternoon

The Paul Walker-Vin Diesel-Dwayne Johnson actioner Fast Five opened above expectations in North America this weekend, earning an estimated $83.6 million. Overseas, however, the victor this Labor Day weekend was Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, Thor, after trailing Fast Five in places like Australia and Germany, went on to collect $83 million in 56 markets according to studio estimates found in The Hollywood Reporter. Fast Five, which grossed $45.3 million, is screening in 14 territories at less than half Thor‘s theater count.

Thor‘s international cume to date is $93 million. Fast Five‘s international cume is $81.4 million, after adding $11.5 million in Russia and $10.2 million in Germany this week. According to Universal, Fast Five had Turkey’s biggest opening ever, $900,000. (Remember to always take those “biggest ever” claims with a grain of salt. Thanks to higher ticket prices and currency fluctuations, bigger box office doesn’t necessarily mean more tickets sold.)

Thor opens in China, the United States, and Canada by next weekend, while Fast Five debuts in 45 markets this week, including France, Italy, Brazil and Mexico. Fast Five‘s worldwide cume stands at $165.03 million.

At no. 3, Carlos Saldanha’s Rio, featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, added $31.7 million in 67 countries according to studio estimates found in The Hollywood Reporter. Top markets were France (where it was up more than 30 percent from last weekend, as per distributor Fox), Brazil, and Mexico.

Internationally, Rio has scored $260.7 million, $36 million of which in Brazil alone. Worldwide total: $364.32 million, which means Rio will remain 2011’s biggest box office hit for at least another week or two.

Apart from Fast Five and Rio, the only other movies on North America’s top-twelve chart that have had their overseas take (if any) tallied are:

  • Reese Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson-Christoph Waltz’s Water for Elephants with an $8.2 million international cume, including $1.9 million in Germany. Worldwide: $40.26 million.
  • Russell Brand-James Marsden’s Hop with a $58.4 million cume. Worldwide: $163.67 million.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal-Michelle Monaghan’s Source Code with a $35 million cume. Worldwide: $83.9 million.

Last year, Robert Pattinson’s Remember Me went on to gross $36 million overseas, 66 percent of its $56.03 million worldwide take. Since the US dollar is weaker now than it was last year, non-American revenues will be worth more once converted to US dollars.

Reese Witherspoon’s prior effort, How Do You Know, went on to earn only $17.49 million overseas up to March ’11.

And finally, Fast Five helped to make the last weekend of April 2011 beat last year’s by 52 percent. Whether this sudden domestic box office momentum will continue until December 31, who can tell?

Having said that, one doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict Furious Six in the not too distant future. Same plot, same characters, same action, same stunts, same weapons, different setting.

* Using Box Office Mojo’s ticket-price inflation ratio, which may be far from perfect but it does help to illustrate the actual success – number of tickets sold – of a particular movie, regardless of when it was released.

April 30

Rio has been bumped to second position, even though Rio de Janeiro remains at the top of the North American box office thanks to the $33.23 million (including $3.8 million at Thursday midnight screenings) earned by Justin Lin’s Fast Five, which is partly set in Rio.

Starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne Johnson, Fast Five averaged $9,120 at 3,644 locations, including 244 (costlier) IMAX theaters, as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Fast Five has by far the biggest domestic opening of 2011 and the biggest April opening ever (unadjusted for inflation, higher IMAX prices), beating Fast & Furious‘s $30.6 million two years ago (about $32.7 million today). And then people complain that Hollywood studios have no imagination, recycling the same stories over and over again, while churning out one sequel after another. The success of Fast Five is the very reason for that business strategy: Audiences the world over flock to see the same crap over and over again.

Even the success of something like Inception – not a remake; not a sequel; not based on a comic-book character – was the direct result of Christopher Nolan’s immense global following after both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, while James Cameron’s Avatar, though not officially a remake, a sequel, or based on a comic-book character, might as well have been just that. Technologically innovative it may have been, but in terms of plot and character Avatar was a by-the-book effort. Not to mention the fact that the 3D gimmick helped to inflate its box office take tremendously.

But really, if you’re investing in a movie what amounts to the national gross product of a small country, you’d be insane to take serious risks. In other words, blame the lack of originality in the vast majority of big-studio releases on braindead audiences, not the studios themselves.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Fast Five cost (officially) $125m; unofficially (and probably more accurately) $170 million. The fourth film in the series, Fast & Furious, cost $85 million and went on to gross $353 million worldwide ($198 million overseas). So, Fast Five‘s debut weekend in North America will surely be quite impressive; without the foreign market, however, such a huge-budgeted movie would never get made today. Certainly not on that scale.

After two weekends on top, Rio will end up in second place. (The city itself remains in first place thanks to Fast Five.) The 3D animated feature is expected to gross about $14.5 million, following an estimated $3.4 million on Friday.

The fact – well, if those early estimates are correct – that Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family was down 70 percent (earning $3.1 million) compared to last Friday should come as no surprise. Perry’s films have a tendency to plummet right after their first weekend. Still, Madea’s Big Happy Family is expected to finish in third (with $9.6 million), ahead of the Robert Pattinson-Reese Witherspoon-Christoph Waltz romantic drama Water for Elephants. Now, that is a surprise.

Considering how well Water for Elephants has performed during this past week, it was down a steeper-than-expected 60 percent compared to last Friday. If Deadline’s estimate is correct, Water for Elephants may end up with $8.1 million for the weekend – unless, that is, there’s an attendance surge on Saturday.

April 29: Fast Five, directed by Justin Lin, and starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson, earned $3.8 million in Thursday midnight screenings at 1,132 locations, reports Brandon Gray at Box Office Mojo. Higher ticket prices likely helped Fast Five to boast Universal’s biggest midnight opening ever.

Fast Five will have the last weekend of April for itself before it gets – at least somewhat – hammered by Kenneth Branagh-Chris Hemsworth-Natalie Portman’s Thor next weekend.

Fast & Furious opened in early April 2009 with $71 million, including $1.8 million at midnight screenings; Fast Five, including its midnight take, is expected to reach close to $75 million.

Overseas, Fast Five seems to be outperforming Thor: $2.2 million vs. $1.2 million in Germany on Thursday; $8.3 million vs. $5.8 million in Australia last weekend.

Up to April 24, Fast Five had grossed an estimated $24 million internationally; Thor‘s tally up to April 28 (though in fewer territories) is $23.3 million.

Fast Five images: Universal Pictures.

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Zac -

All those box-office figures are domestic only, as stated in the first paragraph. Cost reports are there as ‘extra’ information. (I do that every weekend.) And it’s not in any way “inaccurate” to have that in the text.

After all, I’m assuming readers understand that Hollywood movies make money overseas, via DVD sales, VOD, television rights, cable rights, toys, tie-ins, etc. both domestic and international.

Sue -

Some of these figures are only domestic since they are just getting started Internationally. So it does no use to stick ‘Cost’ out there as its inaccurate to compare.

Bridget Flynn -

I’m extremely happy to see WFE staying strong at #2! Robert Pattinson has shown he can play the quintessential leading man, giving a great performance with some of Hollywood’s best, 2 academy award winning actors, Christof Waltz, and Reese Witherspoon. Although I am a huge Twilight fan, its wonderful to see R. Pattinson show another side of himself and flex some of that God-given talent. I thought the movie was very well done, and close to the book. Go,go go!

Betty b -

Because of the talented cast and unique storyline WFE is proving it has “staying power”. Many said it WFE would be in the 6 or 7th place by now. Not!

It’s a movie the entire family can enjoy together :-)

Thanks Zac

zoey -

Your cavalier, flippant disregard for the innotive, ground-breaking Avatar is more sheep like than you claim the film itself is.

footymad -

LOL u mad


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