ENTERTAINMENT

'Fate' to top box office as Hollywood awaits 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

After a record-breaking global opening for “The Fate of the Furious,” Hollywood is taking a spring break.

The eighth movie in Universal Pictures’ blockbuster “The Fast and the Furious” franchise is poised to dominate multiplexes until Hollywood’s summer movie season officially kicks off with the May 5 debut of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Until then, distributors will unleash a handful of films into the market, including a China-themed Disney nature documentary and a star-studded big-budget rendering of the Armenian genocide, but none is expected to do much business.

Here’s what to look out for this weekend:

How ‘Fast,’ how ‘Furious’

“The Fate of the Furious” grossed $98.8 million in the U.S. and Canada last weekend, which is certainly a big haul, though down significantly from 2015’s “Furious 7.” That acclaimed film notched $147 million in its first three days, partly because of its emotional sendoff for star Paul Walker, who died in a car accident in 2013 in Valencia.

Yet “Fate” blew away all reasonable expectations in foreign countries by grossing $433 million internationally. That included $192 million in China, the biggest opening ever for a Hollywood movie in that country and the second-biggest debut of any movie there, behind local hit “The Mermaid.” The combined ticket sales pushed “Fate” past "Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to secure the biggest global opening ever ($532 million), showcasing the power of worldwide audiences.

There’s no doubt that the movie will continue to rule the charts, with analysts expecting a domestic gross of $45 million to $50 million in the U.S. and Canada Friday through Sunday. The continued strength of the foreign grosses should bode well for the future of the series, which boasts an ensemble cast including Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez.

“This feels like it’s sailing toward $1 billion,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “It’ll be interesting to see how it does in the international territories, where it’s done four times its North American box office.”

Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon in "The Promise."
Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon in "The Promise." (Jose Haro / Open Road Films)

Ill-fated ‘Promise?’

Audiences have waited for years for a major film to directly address the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915. The question is whether the new film “The Promise,” starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, can deliver on the high hopes. Finishing the film, which cost at least $90 million to make, was the dream of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who died in 2015.

The movie’s subject matter, brought to the big screen by “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George, has generated much anticipation among people of Armenian descent and has earned the promotional support of celebrities including Kim Kardashian. (The Turkish government has long denied that there was any official policy of ethnic cleansing.)

But the sprawling, star-studded historical epic doesn’t appear to be generating widespread interest among moviegoers. The film is poised to open with $5 million in its first three days in theaters in the United States. Open Road is handling distribution. Despite its cast of high-profile actors — which was a priority for Kerkorian — the film has earned middling reviews from film critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Pandas YaYa and MeiMei in the documentary "Born in China."
Pandas YaYa and MeiMei in the documentary "Born in China." (Ben Wallis / Disney)

The rest of the pack

Of all the smaller new movies that Hollywood is slinging into the marketplace, none is expected to gross more than $10 million.

Warner Bros. has a $12-million domestic thriller called “Unforgettable,” which pits a vengeful Katherine Heigl against Rosario Dawson. Meanwhile, indie powerhouse A24 will unleash “Free Fire,” a violent action comedy starring Brie Larson about an arms deal that goes horribly wrong. Bleecker Street will expand its well-reviewed adventure “The Lost City of Z" to about 500 theaters. Science fiction and horror audiences will have the option of seeing a found-footage UFO-themed movie called “Phoenix Forgotten,” produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and Los Angeles-based upstart Cinelou.

The only other major movie of note is “Born in China,” the latest documentary from Walt Disney Co.’s Disneynature brand. Such movies generally open with about $5 million in the U.S. and Canada. It was a strong performer in China last year, thanks to its focus on cute pandas and snow leopards from the wilderness of the world’s second-largest box-office market.

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