"Furious 7" finished atop the box office for the third consecutive weekend with an estimated $29.1 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada, but it was the international market that pushed the Universal Pictures film to be the highest grossing release worldwide in the studio's 103-year history.
As domestic sales reached $294.4 million, according to studio estimates, "Furious 7" raised its total for 67 territories abroad to an estimated $858.3 million, for a global total of $1.15 billion.
FOR THE RECORD
April 19, 2:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said "Furious 7" had $292.4 million in domestic sales. The film had $294.4 million in domestic sales, according to studio estimates.
"It's still a humbling experience," said Nicholas Carpou, Universal's head of domestic distribution. "The movie continues to surprise."
Directed by James Wan, the film cost Universal Pictures about $190 million to make. It takes the ensemble (including Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez) from London to Los Angeles, Tokyo, the Dominican Republic and Abu Dhabi.
After the death of Walker midway through production, the studio completed Walker's remaining scenes using computer effects and Walker's brothers Caleb and Cody as stand-ins. The result: positive reviews that, coupled with a strong franchise fan base, have fueled moviegoers to see the film more than once.
"When you have a satisfying movie, there's a great opportunity to revisit it and also an opportunity for a broader fan base to discover it," Carpou said. "I think people see it multiple times with different sets of friends so they can share the experience. When movies can do that, it propels them into another orbit."
The film received an A grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore. Critics were almost as warm, giving the film a solid 82% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In second place this weekend, Sony Pictures' "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" exceeded studio and tracking expectations and debuted with $24 million.
The sequel, which cost a relatively modest $30 million to make, stars Kevin James reprising his role as a security guard. Directed by Andy Fickman and released six years after its predecessor, the film follows Blart while he is on vacation with his family in Las Vegas. It costars Shirley Knight, Raini Rodriguez and Neal McDonough.
"Blart is such a wonderful determined underdog that people cheer for," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of domestic distribution. We are very happy with the result. It's a real win and the movie is going to be quite profitable."
Moviegoers gave the film a B-minus on CinemaScore. Critics were not so kind.
The first film was an unexpected breakout hit after it opened with $39.2 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in 2009.
Fellow new release "Unfriended," also from Universal, rounded out the top three with $16 million. The budget for the horror film was just $1 million.
The R-rated film about cyber bullying is Universal's latest micro-budget collaboration with Blumhouse Productions. It follows a teenager as she and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure.
"Unfriended" earned a C grade on CinemaScore but a 65% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"This film had the strategy where the marketing basically went directly into the digital realm," Carpou said, highlighting the film's social media buzz. "It was done on a much higher level and gets right to the audience, which is important," he said, especially for a movie where the action unfolds on characters' computer screens.
Dreamworks Animation's "Home," released by 20th Century Fox, finished in fourth in its fourth weekend, adding an estimated $10.3 million. The film has proved to be a family favorite, pulling in $142.6 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The Nicholas Sparks adaptation "The Longest Ride" came in fifth in its second weekend. The film, released by 20th Century Fox, dropped 47% from its debut weekend, adding $6.9 million. To date, it has collected about $23.5 million domestically.
"Monkey Kingdom," a nature documentary released by Disneynature, opened at No. 7 with $4.7 million, just shy of initial tracking expectations. The Tina Fey-narrated film, which earned high praise with an A-minus CinemaScore grade, follows a family of monkeys living in Sri Lanka.
In limited release, Lionsgate/Summit's "Child 44" did not fare as well as expected, pulling in about $600,000 after launching in about 500 theaters domestically. The thriller, which stars Tom Hardy, was produced by Ridley Scott and is based on a bestseller by Tom Rob Smith.
Fox Searchlight's drama "True Story," which stars Jonah Hill and James Franco, made $1.9 million in about 831 theaters for a per-screen average of $2,323, about half that of "Unfriended."
The well-reviewed artificial intelligence tale "Ex Machina," in limited release from A24 Films, had the weekend's highest per-screen average. It collected $814,293 from 39 theaters, for a per screen average of $20,879.To date, it's made $1.1 million.
Year-to-date, the box office is still strong, up about 5% from last year.