“Fast & Furious” action heroes Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are looking to pull off what may be their most over-the-top stunt yet: a successful spinoff from an 18-year-old Hollywood franchise.
Universal Pictures this weekend releases “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” the ninth movie in the action-thriller series. Johnson and Statham reprise their roles as lawman Luke Hobbs and mercenary Deckard Shaw, respectively, in their own international adventure that will test the limits of the franchise’s appeal.
Studios have previously tried to expand their blockbuster film brands with so-called stand-alone movies, but such efforts have produced mixed results. Disney’s high-priced “Solo: A Star Wars Story” grossed a disappointing $392.9 million last year. Paramount Pictures’ “Bumblebee,” based on a “Transformers” character, collected a decent $468 million.
“Hobbs & Shaw,” which hits theaters Thursday, is expected to generate $60 million to $65 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys.
That would be enough to unseat Disney’s computer-generated remake of “The Lion King” as the top movie, domestically. However, it would also be the lowest opening for a “Fast & Furious” movie since 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” launched with about $24 million. The latest entry, 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” opened with $98.8 million in North America and ended up with $1.24 billion in global grosses off its $250-million budget.
“Hobbs & Shaw,” which also stars Idris Elba as the genetically enhanced villain, cost an estimated $200 million to make.
One question mark is the Chinese market, where the “Fast & Furious” franchise has done massive business in recent years. “Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch (“Deadpool 2"), doesn’t open there until Aug. 23, well after it begins its run in the U.S. and other countries. Still, Johnson and Statham have strong appeal for audiences in China, which is the world’s second-largest box office market.
Fairy-tale ending for ‘Once’?
Box-office analysts will also be paying close attention to the second weekend of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” a major gamble by Sony Pictures.
The movie, set in 1969 Los Angeles, opened with a strong $41.1 million in the U.S. and Canada last weekend, but it will have to continue to do strong business to justify its $90-million production budget. The latest movie from the “Pulp Fiction” director could gross an additional $20 million to $22 million Friday through Sunday, according to industry sources.
Meanwhile, Disney continues to dominate the summer box office with movies including its technologically advanced version of “The Lion King,” which this week crossed the $1 billion box-office milestone. It’s the fourth Disney movie to take in more than $1 billion in receipts this year, following “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “Aladdin.”
Hits such as “The Lion King” have helped the U.S.-Canada box office pick up steam after a lackluster first half of the year. Movies have generated $6.83 billion so far this year, down 6.5% from the same period in 2018, according to data firm Comscore. Sales were down 9.5% during the first six months of 2019.