As "Furious 7" roared into Chinese theaters Sunday -- smashing box-office records with more than $59 million in ticket sales in one day -- Beijing was agog with news of a spectacular real-life sports-car drag race that left a green Lamborghini totaled and a red Ferrari and two other luxury sports cars badly damaged.
The crash occurred in a tunnel near the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium around 10 p.m. Saturday night, just ahead of the midnight opening of "Furious 7," the latest film in the "Fast & Furious" franchise. The Beijing News and other local media quoted witnesses as saying the driver of the green Lamborghini lost control of his car as he was trying to overtake the red Ferrari, smashing into a guardrail and colliding with the tunnel wall.
Photos of the crash scene in local newspapers showed the Lamborghini's entire front end was demolished. Beijing police said the crash resulted in no fatalities, but that one person was injured.
Police identified the driver of the Ferrari as a 20-year-old man from Changchun surnamed Yu and the driver of Lamborghini as a 21-year-old man from Beijing surnamed Tang. Both were "unemployed," authorities said; the Beijing News quoted sources as saying the drivers were college students.
In a statement posted online, police said both drivers were traveling over 100 mph in the tunnel and were taken into custody on suspicion of reckless driving.
China's nouveau riche have a passion for pricey sports cars. Wealthy young drivers of exotic cars have repeatedly made headlines in China in recent years. In perhaps the most scandalous incident, the son of a top Communist Party official crashed his Ferrari in Beijing in 2012.
The driver, Ling Gu, 23, and his two female passengers were all ejected from the vehicle; all were said to be naked or partially naked. Ling died at the scene, while the two women were seriously injured and one later died. Ling's father, Ling Jihua, was later politically sidelined and last year came under official investigation for corruption.
After reading a report on Saturday's crash in the Global Times tabloid, one reader commented that the drivers must have "been watching too many Western car chase movies." And indeed, films such as those in the "Fast & Furious" franchise have performed exceptionally well in China.
Sunday's opening day $59.2-million take for "Furious 7" nearly doubled the previous record, set last summer by "Transformers: Age of Extinction," film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway said Monday. The fourth "Transformers" film -- which went on to become the highest-grossing movie ever in mainland China -- took in $30.2 million on its opening day.
Receipts for films in the "Fast & Furious" franchise have been accelerating even faster than China's overall explosive box-office growth. In 2009, "Fast & Furious 4" pulled in a total of $4.5 million; the fifth movie in the franchise, released in 2011, earned $41.6 million on the mainland, Artisan said. "Fast & Furious 6" took home a total of $66.8 million from China in 2013.
Another car-racing film, last year's Aaron Paul-starrer "Need for Speed," was a major hit in China, with the DreamWorks film earning $65 million on the mainland -- more than its haul in North America.
Last week, China Movie Channel said it would team up on a "Need for Speed" sequel to be filmed in China, partnering with Sid and Marc Ganis' Jiaflix, 1905.com and Electronic Arts. The film is based on an EA video game franchise of the same name.