“Fast & Furious 6" blew past the finish line at the box office this Memorial Day weekend, leaving “The Hangover Part III” to face a sobering reality.
The sixth entry in the action-packed “Fast” franchise took in a robust $120 million from Thursday evening through Monday, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures. That’s by far the best opening for the series, whose fifth installment collected $86.2 million over a three-day weekend in 2011. (The sixth film grossed $96.8 million in three days.)
The third and final “Hangover” film, meanwhile, performed more poorly than both of its predecessors. The movie, which hit theaters late Wednesday, will have sold an estimated $63 million worth of tickets by the end of the holiday weekend. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, the second “Hangover” grossed $135 million during roughly the same time period. Even the 2009 original picture debuted with $45 million in just three days; the third film grossed $41.8 million between Friday and Sunday.
The other picture new to cinemas this weekend, “Epic,” served as the family-friendly alternative for moviegoers. The 3-D animated film grossed a solid $42.6 million over the four-day weekend.
With the “Star Trek” sequel, “Iron Man 3" and “The Great Gatsby” still doing solid business in theaters, it was a record Memorial Day weekend at the box office. Ticket sales amounted to $316 million, per Hollywood.com, breaking 2011’s record of $276.8 million -- not accounting for inflation. Though summer blockbusters have helped to reverse a downward trend at the box office, 2013 receipts and attendance are still down 7% compared with last year.
Critics and audiences loved the latest “Fast” film, as those who turned up to see the movie over the weekend assigned it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Heading into the weekend, the movie was generating the most interest among young men, but the picture ended up appealing to males and females in nearly equal measure. The weekend crowd ended up being a bit older, as well, as 57% of “Fast” moviegoers were older than 25.
Likely because of the film’s ethnically diverse cast -- which includes Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Dwayne Johnson -- 32% of those who saw the sixth film were Latino.
“The movie did very well in urban, diverse areas, and the entire South was also very strong,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “What has been most thrilling for me, though, is that as these films go on women are endorsing them. We spent a lot of time trying to make this more than a car-heist franchise, and it’s paid off.”
Financed by Universal and Elliot Inc. for $160 million, “Fast & Furious 6" is on pace to outgross all of the previous entries in the franchise. To date, “Fast Five” is the most successful film in the series, having collected $626.1 million worldwide two years ago -- about 67% of which came from overseas sales.
The sixth movie is already off to a good start abroad. Playing in 59 foreign markets this weekend, the movie grossed $160.3 million -- exceeding the $125 million “Fast Five” opened with in those same locations in 2011. The movie, which launched in the United Kingdom last weekend, has now grossed a total of $197 million internationally.
This weekend, the sixth “Fast” had the biggest opening of all time in the United Arab Emirates and Argentina, though it sold the most tickets in Russia and Mexico. The picture has yet to debut in six countries, including Japan and China in July.
“The Hangover Part III” received scathing critical reviews, but moviegoers didn’t hate it, giving the film a B CinemaScore this weekend. The movie attracted a slightly older male crowd, as 52% of those who saw it were men and 55% were older than 25.
Heading into the weekend, the R-rated film was expected to collect $80 million by the end of the weekend -- but by mid-day Friday, it was clear the picture would not meet that mark.
“We underperformed a bit and I was a bit taken aback, but it is what it is,” acknowledged Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., which co-financed the film with Legendary Pictures for $103 million. “It doesn’t help to be a Monday morning quarterback. If I had seen research that suggested our film and ‘Fast’ were not neck-in-neck heading into the weekend, I would have fought harder for a different date.”
Though he admits the studio “did leave some money on the table” this weekend, Fellman said he is hopeful that those moviegoers who saw “Fast” this weekend will turn to see a comedy in the coming weeks.
The “Hangover Part II” grossed $586.8 million globally in 2011 -- 56% of which was due to international sales. Though the third film may not fare as well as the second domestically, the studio is hopeful that the expanding global market means the new “Hangover” will exceed its predecessor overseas.
This weekend, the movie grossed $19.2 million from just three foreign markets: the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The major international launch, however, comes next weekend, when the film will debut in 50 countries.
“Epic” capitalized on a different audience than the weekend’s big-budget franchises this weekend, playing to a 57% female crowd. The film about a teenage girl on an adventure deep in the forest was well-liked by opening weekend moviegoers, scoring an average grade of A.
20th Century Fox, which released the $93-million Blue Sky Studios production, is hopeful that good word-of-mouth will come into play over the next month, as no animated films hit theaters until “Monsters University” on June 21.
“There are no cutesy animals or any of the themes traditional to animated fare in this movie, which makes its success particularly gratifying,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution.
Because the picture is not part of an existing franchise, it remains to be seen how well it will do internationally, where animated pictures typically make most of their money. This weekend, “Epic” played in 20 countries abroad and sold a decent $44 million worth of tickets, performing best in the United Kingdom and France. Next weekend, when the film opens in 26 additional countries, the film’s foreign fate will become clearer.