‘F9’ Propels Box Office to Biggest Weekend Since Pandemic
(Bloomberg) -- “F9,” the latest installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, turbocharged the domestic box office this weekend, drawing audiences back into theaters at a pace not seen since early 2020.
The feature from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures generated $70 million in weekend ticket sales, according to researcher Comscore Inc., higher than the industry estimate of $67 million, walloping the current largest film debut during pandemic times. The result amounts to an average opening weekend for a movie in the Fast & Furious series, but still thrills theater owners and studios, which have been starved of new big-budget films for 15 months.
The movie industry is hoping the popcorn flick kicks off a broader return to the cinema. By luring audiences in with dazzling car chases, they’re hoping to show that theaters are safe and desirable places to be. The box office sales this weekend could boost prospects for other potential blockbusters due to premiere in the coming weeks, such as Walt Disney Co.’s “Black Widow.”
Universal’s decision to delay the release of “F9” to June placed the film in the “perfect sweet spot of ever-increasing vaccinations, growing consumer confidence, and momentum built over the past few weeks by a selection of films that have drawn enthusiastic patrons to the multiplex,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said Sunday.
“F9” continues the saga of Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, and his crew of car enthusiasts. It has only mildly positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling its over-the-top stunts preposterous, but it’s still expected to draw a large crowd. Unlike almost every movie that’s come out during the pandemic, it is available exclusively in theaters, and the action sequences are purpose-built for the big screen.
Further, about 80% of cinemas have now reopened, with rules around masks and social distancing continuing to ease, according to data from Comscore. “F9” is showing in 4,179 North American locations, the largest footprint of any movie that’s come out since March 2020.
Already the movie has proved popular with audiences abroad. It premiered outside the U.S. in May, and has sold about $300 million worth of tickets, with international sales reaching $335 million after the weekend. And in the U.S., it generated $7.1 million in sales during a Thursday preview night, already setting it on a course to be the biggest box office winner in more than a year.
“A Quiet Place Part II,” a Paramount Pictures film that came out in May, took the No. 2 spot this weekend, making $6.2 million. Until the debut of “F9,” it was the largest movie opening in the pandemic, generating $48 million on its first three days in domestic cinemas.
Overall, the 10 biggest films this weekend more than doubled the box-office take of last week’s top 10, which generated $44.1 million in ticket sales.
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