NORTH AMERICA: Weekend Estimates: ‘Furious 7’ Speeds to a New April Opening Weekend Record with Massive $143.6M Start

Universal’s highly anticipated Furious 7 sped past its already lofty expectations this weekend with a record-breaking $143.62 million estimated start. The well-received seventh installment of the popular franchise featuring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and the late Paul Walker opened an extremely impressive 51 percent stronger than the $95.02 million start of last year’s Captain America: The Winter Solider to establish a new opening weekend record for the month of April. Furious 7 also opened 47.5 percent stronger than the $97.38 million start of 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 to easily set a new all-time opening weekend record for Universal. Furious 7 claimed the ninth largest opening weekend of all time (without adjusting for ticket price inflation).

The opening weekend performance of Furious 7 was made even more impressive by the fact that it was accomplished over Easter weekend; a holiday weekend in which movie-going tends to be subdued. The previous opening weekend record over Easter weekend was the $61.24 million debut of 2010’s Clash of the Titans. Anticipation for Furious 7 was helped out by a number of factors, which included the strong reception to Fast 6, the film’s largely positive critical reviews, a lack of high-profile films aimed at male moviegoers in recent weeks and by the tragic passing of Paul Walker in 2013.

Furious 7 did prove to be very front-loaded this weekend, though that wasn’t much of a surprise given the Easter holiday and that The Fast and the Furious franchise has a history of its weekends being Friday heavy. Furious 7 opened with $67.3 million on Good Friday (which included an estimated $15.8 million from evening shows on Thursday), took in $46.3 million on Saturday, which was a sharp, but understandable 31 percent decline (especially with competition from the NCAA Final Four), and is estimated to fall 35 percent on Easter Sunday to gross $30.02 million. That places the film’s estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.13 to 1. Despite the early front-loading, Furious 7 will still have the opportunity to hold up relatively well going forward, thanks in part to strong word of mouth (the film received an A rating on CinemaScore) and the lackluster release schedule throughout the rest of April.

Furious 7 benefited from having clear four-quadrant appeal. The audience breakdown for Furious 7 skewed very slightly towards male moviegoers (51 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and older (56 percent). The film grossed an estimated $14.0 million from IMAX locations, which represented 9.7 percent of this weekend’s overall gross.

Home was down one spot this weekend to finish in a distant second with an estimated $27.4 million. The successful 3D computer animated film from Fox and DreamWorks Animation was down a sizable 47 percent from last weekend. Clearly, the record-breaking launch of Furious 7 took a toll on the rest of the marketplace in general this weekend and led to additional front-loading for both Home and Get Hard last weekend. With that said, Home continues to perform very well in the bigger picture with a stronger than expected $95.62 million in ten days. That places the film 8 percent ahead of the $88.89 million ten-day start of 2013’s The Croods (which fell 39 percent in its second weekend to gross $26.71 million). Home will hope to stabilize going forward, especially with no new animated films entering the marketplace between now and the June 19th launch of Disney’s Inside Out.

Warner’s Get Hard was down one spot from last weekend to fall to third with an estimated $12.93 million. The R-rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart was down a very sharp 62 percent from last weekend. In addition to the new direct competition from Furious 7, Get Hard was also likely hurt this weekend by mixed word of mouth and poor critical reviews. The ten-day take for Get Hard stands at $57.00 million. That is towards the lower end of pre-release expectations and places the film 18.5 percent behind the $69.95 million ten-day gross of 2010’s The Other Guys (which fell 51 percent in its second weekend to gross $17.41 million).

Cinderella claimed fourth place this weekend with an estimated $10.29 million. Disney’s blockbuster fairy tale adaptation had one of the weekend’s better percentage holds among wide releases, as it was down 40 percent from the previous frame. Cinderella has grossed a strong $167.25 million in 24 days. That currently ranks the film as the highest grossing release of 2015 to date, though obviously Furious 7 will be overtaking it for first place in just a matter of days. Cinderella is running 10 percent behind the $185.88 million 24-day take of last year’s Maleficent.

Lionsgate’s The Divergent Series: Insurgent followed closely behind in fifth with an estimated $10.0 million. The second installment of the young adult series starring Shailene Woodley fell a sharp 54 percent from last weekend. Insurgent surpassed the $100 million domestic mark this weekend and continues to perform on the lower end of expectations with a 17-day take of $103.38 Million. That places the film 9 percent behind the $114.01 million 17-day gross of last year’s Divergent.

On the limited front, The Weinstein Company’s Woman in Gold was off to an encouraging start with an estimated $2.00 million from 258 locations. That gave the drama starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds a per-location average of $7,767 and placed the film in seventh place for the frame. Since its debut on Wednesday, Woman in Gold has grossed $2.099 million to date.

Saturday Update by Shawn Robbins

Universal reports that Furious 7 amassed $67.3 million on opening day Friday, including Thursday night’s $15.8 million start. Not only does that surpass even optimistic expectations entering the weekend, it represents a stunning 74 percent increase from Fast & Furious 6‘s first day in May 2013, and very nearly matches the $71 million opening weekend of the 2009 fourth film, Fast & Furious. It also represents Universal’s biggest opening day in studio history, while shattering Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s previous $36.9 million April record for a first day (which itself took the crown from Fast Five). All-time, this stands as the tenth highest opening day in history — leading such mega blockbusters as The Hunger Games ($67.26 million) and The Dark Knight ($67.17 million). For extra perspective, Furious 7 earned more in a single day than 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift did in its entire domestic run ($62.5 million).

Simply put, there’s no shortage of commentary here. It had been widely expected that Furious 7 would easily set new April benchmarks as audiences looked to pay their own final tribute to Paul Walker following his tragic passing in November 2013 before filming on the movie had completed. Following extensive story adjustments, the team went back to work and effectively pitched this film as a would-be franchise finale. The mystique of fans seeing Paul Walker in his final role has become an unfortunate parallel to Heath Ledger’s passing before The Dark Knight released in 2008, which fueled expectations that this weekend would push some new box office records.

Early word of mouth for Furious 7 is impressively strong as it boasts a 91 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience score as of this morning — the highest any wide release has claimed in the last six months. Critics have also awarded it the best reviews of the franchise with an 81 percent score at the moment. The Fast franchise is typically known to be front-loaded, and Good Friday no doubt played a part in bringing out 7‘s massive audience, but all factors combined here indicate potential for strong holding power through April as it faces minimal competition before Avengers: Age of Ultron drops on May 1.

For the weekend, Universal is projecting Furious 7 will land an incredible $149.5 million opening weekend. While March Madness on Saturday and Easter Sunday could be minor speed bumps throughout the weekend, that figure would still blow past the previous Easter weekend record-holder (Clash of the Titans, $61.2 million) and even represent more in three days’ time than the original The Fast and the Furious earned ($144.5 million) through its entire domestic run in 2001. With so many factors at play, it seems very likely this will be the first film in the franchise to ultimately reach $300 million or more before the end of its domestic turn in theaters.

Meanwhile, DreamWorks’ Home held its own as families turned out on the holiday. The pic added $11.3 million yesterday, boosting its eight-day total to $79.5 million — generally in line with where 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens stood through the same point. BoxOffice projects a $29.7 million sophomore frame.

In third place, Get Hard added $5.0 million, down 61 percent from its opening day last week. The Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy has totaled $49.1 million thus far, 9.5 percent behind where Blades of Glory stood at the same point. BoxOffice projects a $13.9 million weekend.

Cinderella benefited from schools being out of session yesterday, taking in $4.07 million for a 15.5 percent drop from the previous Friday. Disney’s latest fairy tell retelling now stands at $161.03 million domestically and looks headed for a weekend around $11.0 million. The film also overtook Fifty Shades of Grey on Friday as 2015’s top domestic earner thus far.

In fourth, The Divergent Series: Insurgent claimed $4.0 million for a 42 percent week-to-week drop. The sequel’s tally is now $97.4 million. BoxOffice projects a $10.0 million frame.

Filling out the top five, It Follows added $917K as it expanded to 1,655 theaters yesterday. With $6.99 million in the bank, we’re projecting a $2.6 million weekend for the indie horror hit.

Be sure to check BoxOffice on Sunday for official weekend estimates from the studios.

Friday Update #3: Updated figures now indicate that Furious 7 could end up with a staggering debut haul somewhere between $135 million-$140 million.

Friday Update #2: Sources tell BoxOffice that Furious 7 is headed for $120 million-$125 million during its debut frame. The action flick is on pace for as much as $55 million on Friday. Furious 7 will set a new opening weekend record for April, a new franchise record, and it will mark the highest North American opening since The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 last November.

Check back tomorrow for official studio numbers and updated projections.

Friday Update #1: Sources report that Furious 7 scored a stellar $15.8 million from opening night shows beginning at 7pm on Thursday. By comparison, last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier pulled $10.2 million in its Thursday debut before landing an April record $95 million weekend. Furious 7 blew even further past its predecessor, Fast & Furious 6, which bowed to $6.5 million in early shows back in May 2013. Fast Five itself debuted to $3.8 million midnight shows in April 2011.

Entering the weekend, there’s been little questioning that Furious 7 was poised to break Winter Soldier‘s April weekend record, and last night’s performance further cements that expectation. How high it will go is still somewhat up in the air with Easter landing on Sunday. The holiday typically deflates most box office performances, however, there’s never been an opening this widely anticipated on the preceding Good Friday and the franchise’s family themes could serve to help it more than hurt it come Sunday. That’s a theory yet to be tested, but with very strong early word of mouth and audiences’ desire to pay one final tribute to the late Paul Walker, all bets are off at the moment.

We’ll have more throughout today and the weekend as numbers and projections firm up.

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