Box office: 'Furious 7' still in driver's seat; 'Longest Ride' comes in third

'Furious 7' again led the pack at the box office this weekend

“Furious 7” again raced to the top spot at the box office this weekend.

The latest installment from the Universal Pictures franchise dominated domestic ticket sales with $60.6 million in its second weekend—still robust despite a 59% drop from its opening weekend.

When factored in with its massive $143.6-million opening, that pushed the film's total to $252 million -- a best for the franchise.

With a whopping $190-million price tag, the film crossed the $200-million mark, on Friday, in just eight days -- surpassing the studio’s previous record for that milestone, set by “Despicable Me 2” in 11 days.

The action film, directed by newcomer James Wan and serving as the final film for the late Paul Walker, showed in 4,022 theaters.

And in less than two weeks, it has sped past the $800-million worldwide mark, with a big boost coming from China.

It opened in first place in China on Sunday, with an estimated $68.6 million -- the highest-grossing one-day result ever for the country.

“Furious 7” has the ensemble (including Walker, Vin Diesel, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez) reaching high speeds around the globe from London to Los Angeles, Tokyo, the Dominican Republic and Abu Dhabi and back to Los Angeles.

Midway through its production, things took a turn when Walker died in a car crash. The release date for the film shifted from July 2014 to this month.

Computer effects were used to complete Walker’s remaining scene. And Caleb and Cody Walker, Paul's brothers, were brought in as stand-ins.

Curiosity as to how the film would handle the death of Walker has likely helped fuel ticket buying — though Nicholas Carpou, Universal's head of domestic distribution, thinks fan interest in that was more of a factor in the film’s first weekend.

“While curiosity could be a factor, the first weekend would have been the one to quench that thirst," Carpou said. “But what we’re seeing in some cases is that people are seeing it multiple times … there’s tremendous interest on what this group of characters does next and what exploits they undergo.”

“Furious 7’s” refusal to slow down meant DreamWorks Animation’s “Home,” with $19 million, landed in second place in its third week while this weekend’s romance newcomer “The Longest Ride” roped in the No. 3 spot.

The Nicholas Sparks romancer, starring Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, brought in $13.5 million from 3,132 locations -- in line with projections.

 The 20th Century Fox film, about a rodeo star who romances a college student, cost $34 million to make and did better than the most recent Sparks’ adaptation, “The Best of Me,” which opened last October to $10 million.

Still, “The Longest Ride” was on the low end of debuts for a Sparks adaptation -- “Safe Haven” took in $21.4 million in its opening, while “The Lucky One” took in $22.5 million.

“As the film moves forward and word of mouth spreads, things will pick up,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’shead of distribution. “There’s a clear playing field ahead for a romantic film. And we saw that its strong suit was between the coasts.”

Though it didn’t find love with critics, audiences gave it an A CinemaScore rating. And as Aronson noted, the bulk of ticket buyers came from middle America and, as expected, the film skewed female (73%).

Also this weekend, “Get Hard,” the prison comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, came in fourth place with $8.6 million in its third weekend. The Warner Bros. R-rated comedy, which cost $40 million to make, has hauled in $71.2 million to date.

PG-rated “ Cinderella,” meanwhile, rounded out the top five with $7.2 million. The Disney live-action film has brought in a domestic total of $180.8 million during its five weeks in theaters.

On the smaller scale, artificial intelligence thriller “Ex Machina” opened in four theaters with its limited release. The A24 film, which marks the directorial debut of “28 Days Later” writer Alex Garland, took in $249,956 over the weekened, with an impressive $62,489 per-screen-average—likely bolstered by strong reviews. The sci-fi film will expand to more theaters on April 24.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


11:05 a.m.: This post has been updated throughout to include audience demographic data, studio reaction and additional background. 

The original version of this post was published at 9:12 a.m.