This weekend, the North American box office hit a higher gear.
F9, the tenth film in the long-running Fast & Furious franchise, won the top spot at the box office with an estimated $70M from a pandemic-record 4,179 locations over the final weekend of June, marking the highest debut of the pandemic by far and injecting new life into the theatrical marketplace after previous strong openings by films such as Godzilla vs. Kong ($31.63M) and A Quiet Place Part II ($47.55M). That’s the highest opening at the domestic box office since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which opened to $177.38M when it was released in December 2019.
Originally slated to open in North America over Memorial Day weekend 2020, F9 was pushed to April 2, 2021 due to the pandemic and, later, Memorial Day weekend 2021 before ultimately landing on June 25. The wait appears to have been worth it, as the film posted numbers that – while still undoubtedly lower than they would have been prior to the emergence of COVID-19 thanks to a few lingering capacity restrictions and a reticence on the part of some prospective moviegoers to return to the theater – are much more in line with the kind of blockbuster tallies we saw in the pre-pandemic era.
Universal has certainly been pouring all its efforts into making F9 a hit on par with previous entries in the franchise. The film’s marketing campaign has consistently touted the sequel as the one title above all others that would bring Americans back to the movies again. That was certainly a bold — and even potentially risky — bit of messaging, but it seems to have paid off judging by this weekend’s numbers.
F9 was certainly helped by a widespread lifting of capacity restrictions by exhibitors in major markets over the past several days, making the landscape perfect for this kind of a robust opening. It’s also hard not to sense a pent-up demand among consumers for a return to the big-screen experience they’ve largely been missing out on over the past 15 and a half months, particularly now that relatively high vaccination rates in many areas of the country have made many consumers more comfortable with the prospect of resuming normal activities again.
Demand was also clearly high for another film in the Fast franchise, which hasn’t debuted an installment in theaters since the 2019 spin-off Hobbs & Shaw ($173.96M domestic, $759.06M worldwide), while a proper sequel hasn’t been seen since 2017’s Fate of the Furious ($226M domestic, $1.24B worldwide). Thankfully, the crop of moviegoers who have shown the greatest willingness to return to theaters so far skew heavily young and male — i.e. demos that fall right into the franchise’s wheelhouse. Sixty percent of the opening weekend audience was male and 49% was under the age of 25, while over half were Hispanic and/or African-American.
The studio’s promotional machine certainly hit a high gear in the months leading up to release, with prime ad spots on Oscar night and during various major sporting events as well as Saturday Night Live. The official F9 YouTube trailer has drawn more than 52.5 million views since first being posted in January 2020, while a follow-up trailer released in April this year has garnered 46.5 million views in just over two months. The franchise’s social media following is another factor in the movie’s favor, with 5 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram — while F9 stars like Vin Diesel (over 71M Instagram followers) have even more impressive numbers.
Crucial to this weekend’s turnout was a renewed eagerness among casual fans of the series to return to theaters, and judging from this weekend’s numbers, it appears that many of them were. F9’s opening weekend gross even surpassed that of Hobbs & Shaw, which debuted to $60.04M in non-pandemic times.
Though nowhere near the heights of series-best opener Furious 7 – which debuted to a massive $147.19M in April 2015, partially due to sustained media attention around star Paul Walker’s untimely death in the middle of filming – or even 2017’s The Fate of the Furious ($98.79M opening) and Fast & Furious 6 ($97.38M), F9’s opening is nonetheless excellent given the continued (albeit waning) pandemic in the U.S. and the fact that it’s the tenth film in a now 20-year-old franchise – an unusually long run for an action series and a time when fatigue may understandably be setting in.
As of Sunday, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes have the film on the brink of falling into “Rotten” territory, making it the lowest-rated Fast installment since the franchise reinvented itself with Fast Five. That said, critically it’s only a tick below both Hobbs & Shaw and The Fate of the Furious, both of which scored a 67% critical average on the review aggregator. Perhaps boding well for the film’s long-term playability, audiences seem to be enjoying it somewhat better, giving F9 a solid 84% Audience Score on RT and a B+ Cinemascore.
In non-F9 news, A Quiet Place Part II had another strong hold, dropping just 32% to an estimated $6.2M in its fifth weekend of release for a total of $136.39M. Encouragingly, weekend-to-weekend drops for the Paramount sequel have been more or less in line with the first movie, which finished with a total of $188.02M in North America.
Last weekend’s No. 1 film, Lionsgate/Millennium Media’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, fell two spots to third place with an estimated $4.88M in its sophomore frame, a 57% drop. The Ryan Reynolds-Samuel L. Jackson sequel has $25.87M to date.
Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway dropped 20% to an estimated $4.85M in its third weekend of release, good for fourth place. The sequel’s $28.86M total is a far cry from the $71.51M the first film took in by the same point in its run — the caveat of course being that the original movie was released in a non-pandemic year.
Disney’s Cruella rounded out the top 5 with an estimated $3.7M in its fifth weekend of release, giving the 101 Dalmatians prequel a total of $71.3M.
Just outside the top 10 at No. 6 is The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which grossed an estimated $2.92M in its fourth weekend for a total of $59.13M to date.
Finally, Warner Bros.’ In the Heights came in at No. 7 in its third weekend with an estimated $2.23M, a 47% drop from its sophomore frame. The musical adaptation now has $24.16M in the bank.
F9 opened in 22 new markets this weekend (including Mexico, the U.K. and Brazil) and grossed an estimated $37.96M overall, giving it an international total of $334.85M and a global tally of $404.85M. In Mexico, the Universal sequel opened to a pandemic-best $10.7M, while it took in an estimated $8.3M in the U.K. and $2.6M in Brazil.
Cruella took in an estimated $10.6M from 43 territories, including a $2.2M opening in France, the final major international market. The Disney release has grossed $112.5M overseas and $183.8M globally.
A Quiet Place Part II grossed an estimated $9.6M from 48 markets for an international cume of $112.1M and a global total of $248.49M.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It took in an estimated $6.9M from 57 markets, bringing the horror sequel’s international tally to $101.5M and its global total to $160.6M.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway grossed $6.3 million internationally, bringing its overseas total to $79M and its global gross to $107.8M.
Disney’s Luca, which was not given a theatrical release in North America, grossed an estimated $4.5M from 12 territories, bringing its overseas total to $11.6M.
|Title||Estimated weekend||% change||Locations||Location change||Average||Total||Weekend||Distributor|
|F9: The Fast Saga||$70,000,000||4,179||$16,750||$70,000,000||1||Universal|
|A Quiet Place Part II||$6,200,000||-32%||3,124||-277||$1,985||$136,388,366||5||Paramount|
|The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard||$4,875,000||-57%||3,361||30||$1,450||$25,873,686||2||Lionsgate|
|Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway||$4,850,000||-20%||3,331||-15||$1,456||$28,855,098||3||Sony Pictures|
|The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It||$2,920,000||-42%||2,668||-612||$1,094||$59,133,366||4||Warner Bros.|
|In the Heights||$2,230,000||-47%||2,403||-1,106||$928||$24,161,509||3||Warner Bros.|
|The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2||$229,000||-62%||355||-184||$645||$2,543,736||3||HEFG|
|Werewolves Within||$223,000||270||$826||$223,000||1||IFC Films|
|The Sparks Brothers||$110,000||-60%||534||n/c||$206||$511,210||2||Focus Features|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||$48,000||-54%||120||-132||$400||$54,460,150||17||Walt Disney|
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