Friday, June 25 Update: Universal reports this morning that F9 scored a strong $7.1 million start off the line Thursday evening, setting a new record among all domestic releases during the pandemic era.
F9 topped A Quiet Place Part II‘s $4.8 million Thursday night start from 3,000 locations, a statistic made even more impressive considering the horror sequel kicked off two hours earlier at 5pm (F9 began screening at 7pm from a similar 3,100 locations).
Within the franchise itself, F9 exceeded Hobbs & Shaw‘s $5.8 million 7pm previews from 3,400 venues back in August 2019, while expectedly falling short of The Fate of the Furious ($10.4 million) when it opened the Thursday night leading into Good Friday and Easter weekend.
F9 expands to a further 4,179 locations today, making it the first film since March 2020 (Pixar’s Onward) to exceed the 4,000 count threshold.
June 24 Report: After multiple delays and a year’s worth of the Universal marketing engine revving up, Dom Toretto and his fam are welcoming audiences back to theaters this weekend with the long awaited release of F9.
The ninth film in the Fast & Furious franchise was originally slated to open over Memorial Day weekend in 2020 until COVID-19 muffled those plans. The studio took the long-view and pushed the film into April 2021, then to May, and eventually settled on this final June weekend for its release as part of a staggered global rollout that began with China’s launch in May.
Summer moviegoing has technically been under way in North America since A Quiet Place Part II broke pandemic era records at the box office with its theatrically exclusive release over the Memorial Day frame last month (alongside respectable support from Disney’s hybrid title, Cruella). Still, with Cinema Week in full force right now, plus major markets and exhibitors lifting United States seating capacity restrictions in recent days, there’s little doubt that F9 is in the best position of any film since the pandemic began as the next — and perhaps biggest yet — blockbuster release.
Opening Weekend Range: $60 – 80 million
Domestic Total Range: $130 – 180 million
- The franchise has amassed over $1.69 billion domestically across nine films in twenty years, reinventing itself with bigger stakes and ensemble casts as the series has evolved to become generational and multicultural event cinema around the world.
- Widely appealing content has been somewhat scattershot in recent months even as films like the Quiet Place sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, and others have lifted box office spirits. There’s certainly a pent-up demand for movies meant to be seen on the big screen right now, especially after going an entire summer without such content last year.
- Returning alongside Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Charlize Theron, and the entire gang are past franchise favorites like Sung Kang, Jordana Brewster, and others along with the addition of Jon Cena in a new role — whetting fan appetites for the ever-expanding cast of characters. Justin Lin is also back in the director’s chair, having previously helmed some of the series’ most well-received and successful entries (Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6).
- Marketing footprints have been remarkably strong for the film since promotion initially began over 18 months ago. The film’s official YouTube trailer garnered over 52 million views from the Fast Saga page alone since debuting in January 2020. A more recent trailer released in April has nearly matched that number with 46.5 million views in just over two months’ time. The highly-buzzed-about “Our Return to Theaters” promo tacks on another 10 million to the count since its debut in late April, which included air time before the Oscars, during Saturday Night Live, and as part of many top-rated sporting events since.
- Social media impact is similarly notable thanks to the franchise’s combined 5 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, and that’s before even counting the universal reach of its stars (Vin Diesel alone has over 71 million followers on Instagram).
- International results for F9 have already been encouraging relative to pandemic era considerations and expectations. The film’s $136 million debut in China exceeded Hobbs & Shaw‘s $94.9 million back in August 2019, while a $6.7 million weekend in Australia also bested that spin-off’s local start of $4.9 million. In all, F9 stood at $292.5 million internationally from 23 territories (13 of which just opened June 18) through June 20.
- Domestically, the franchise has appealed to an incredibly diverse audience over time with particularly strong appeal to Latinx and Black communities. Recent opening weekend demographic make-ups include 60 percent non-Caucasian for Hobbs & Shaw, 59 percent for Fate, and a whopping 75 percent for Furious 7.
- Among the moviegoers who are returning to theaters already during the pandemic recovery period and vaccine era, young audiences and adult men have turned out the most. These are prime demographics for the Fast franchise.
- Pre-sale trends have picked up significantly in recent days as more awareness of theatrical re-openings and lifted seating capacities grows throughout the country, resulting in another upward readjustment of forecasting models published last week. The additional key required to reach or beat expectations this weekend will be an increased willingness among casual audiences to make their first return trip to theaters since last year’s shutdown.
- According to The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard, F9 currently accounts for 36 percent of all exhibitor showtimes from a sampling of 3,354 theaters (just shy of 125,000 total showtimes) as of Thursday afternoon. By comparison, A Quiet Place Part II represented a 34 percent share (118,357 showtimes) from a sampled 3,387 locations during its three-day opening weekend.
- Releasing in 4,179 domestic theaters this weekend, it’s the widest release of the pandemic era thus far — topping Cruella‘s peak 3,922 count during its second week and A Quiet Place Part II‘s 3,744 second week showing. F9 also isn’t far behind Hobbs & Shaw‘s 4,253 opening footprint, despite the former not having all of Canada’s market to include.
- When any series hits ten films, franchise fatigue is a defendable consideration in forecasts and expectations. The broad reality is that this is a global franchise through-and-through, regularly earning about three-quarters of its worldwide box office outside North America.
After peaking with 2015’s Furious 7 ($353 million domestically, part of $1.52 billion globally), 2018’s The Fate of the Furious was the first chapter in over a decade to see earnings decline a bit ($226 million domestic, $1.24 billion global). Hobbs & Shaw continued the trend with a $759 million worldwide finish, including $174 million from North America.
F9 has generated openings 30 percent and 26 percent lower than Fate in Australia and China, respectively.
- In the case of Fate, some of the decline was easily explained (and expected) due to the absence of the late Paul Walker following his tragic passing in a one-man car crash late in 2013 (which heightened interest in Furious 7 itself as he had been in the middle of filming that sequel at the time). Hobbs & Shaw is also a bit of an outlier as the franchise’s first true spin-off film (although 2006’s Tokyo Drift effectively was at the time since it was the only film to not star Diesel or Walker until 2019).
Both of those films were still runaway financial successes. Still, F9 is without Dwayne Johnson — a key figure in the franchise’s ability to reinvent itself mid-stream beginning with 2011’s Fast Five. He’s appeared in five consecutive Furious-related movies since then, becoming an integral part of the ensemble branding. His absence in F9 could be felt to some extent.
- The film is likely review-proof under the current market circumstances, and its 63 percent Rotten Tomatoes score is similar to Hobbs & Shaw (67 percent) and Fate (67 percent) while coming in lower than Furious 7 (82 percent), Furious 6 (84 percent), and Fast Five (83 percent).
Word of mouth could become slightly more of a concern among casual audiences, particularly in the wake of Fate‘s relatively divided reception (72 percent audience score) compared to other recent sequels in the franchise (including Hobbs) which generally ranked in low to high 80 percent range. Multiple sources have reported China’s Maoyan and Douban scores for F9 were down from recent entries in the franchise, a market where the franchise is arguably as popular or more so than anywhere else.
- In general, moviegoing remains in a state of recovery that should give context to all box office expectations and performances right now. Seating restrictions are lifting throughout the vast majority of the domestic market, but a fair portion of Canadian theaters remain offline (including Ontario) and not all prospective ticket-buyers are shedding their high caution tendencies to return to theaters yet — and/or they simply are taking time to prioritize other social gatherings they’ve missed out on for over a year.
- Comparisons remain highly volatile — even against A Quiet Place Part II — but pre-sale trends have proven backloaded and heavily favored toward premium formats. That begs the question as to whether walk-up business will be strong enough in standard auditoriums throughout the weekend to push the film into the upper echelon (or higher) of modeled forecasts.
Bottom Line: Fan goodwill and the promise of adrenaline-fueled, popcorn summer escapism should power F9‘s debut to new pandemic era weekend records at the domestic box office. Even with pre-pandemic expectations of franchise fatigue and unprecedented variables still in play for the rebounding market, it’s only a matter of time before a movie (or a combination of them) elevates the number of moviegoers who have already returned to even greater figures. F9 is likely to be one of those movies, the only question is “by how much?”
This Weekend vs. Last Weekend
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will increase between 105 and 130 percent from last weekend’s $44.1 million top ten aggregate.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, June 27||Location Count||% Change from Last Wknd|
|A Quiet Place Part II||Paramount Pictures||$6,600,000||$137,000,000||3,124||-27%|
|The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard||Lionsgate||$4,800,000||$26,000,000||3,361||-58%|
|Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway||Sony Pictures / Columbia||$4,700,000||$28,500,000||3,331||-23%|
|Cruella||Walt Disney Pictures||$3,500,000||$70,800,000||2,820||-27%|
|The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It||Warner Bros. Pictures||$3,000,000||$59,000,000||~2,700||-40%|
|In the Heights||Warner Bros. Pictures||$2,400,000||$24,300,000||~2,600||-43%|
|Spirit Untamed||Universal Pictures||$900,000||$15,600,000||1,773||-42%|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.
*revised upon studio confirmation of weekend location count
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.
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