With a ‘Furious’ opening, ‘Fate’ debuts with global box office record

L.A. Times film critic Justin Chang and film writer Jen Yamato talk fast and furiously about what works and what doesn’t in'Fate of the Furious’ and the idea of family in the record-breaking franchise. (Warning: spoiler revealed halfway into video.)


“Fate” has spoken. Universal’s latest addition to “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, “The Fate of the Furious,” is what audiences worldwide want to see as the film’s weekend debut is projected to be the biggest global opening of all time.

The eighth installment brought in an estimated $100.2 million in the U.S. and Canada, below analyst projections of $110 million to $125 million. Still, it’s the second-biggest domestic opening of the year, behind “Beauty and the Beast’s” $175-million bow. It’s also the second-biggest debut of the franchise, behind its 2015 predecessor.

Combined with the film’s massive international opening of $432.3 million — well above the $280 million to $300 million analysts initially projected — “Fate” surpassed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens’” record-setting $529-million worldwide opening with $532.5 million.


“Across all subcultures, the movie found a home in every market in the world at a point when moviegoing is at its peak,” said Duncan Clark, the studio’s head of international distribution. “All the stars aligned.”

Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief added: “We’re riding very high. These records are hard to beat, and here we are in that moment.”

Since 2001, “The Fast and the Furious” has evolved from a B-movie about street racing in Los Angeles into one of Hollywood’s biggest global franchises, tallying $3.9 billion in worldwide box office sales. Its diverse cast — with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Michelle Rodriguez and new antagonist Charlize Theron — James Bond-style stunts and themes of brotherly love are credited with drawing a healthy mix of moviegoers who’ve been loyal to the franchise for 16 years and counting.

The series’ high-water mark came two years go with the release of “Furious 7,” which opened to $147 million in tickets sales in the United States and Canada. Its follow-up, however, was not projected to beat “Furious 7” in its debut. The prior movie was the last to feature longtime star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in Valencia before the movie wrapped production. Widespread curiosity stoked by the tragedy and the swelling of fan support for the picture, paired with widespread critical acclaim, propelled the film to new heights at the box office.

But “Fate’s” success worldwide suggests Universal has incorporated lessons learned from the film’s predecessors in its strategy. For example, “Furious 7” grossed $245 million in foreign countries in its first weekend, for a global debut of $392 million. That total, however, didn’t include China, the world’s second-biggest movie market. This go-round, “Fate” opened in China at the same time as North America, an automatic boost to its opening weekend numbers given the popularity of the previous movie in that country. (“Furious 7” collected $390 million in Chinese ticket sales, pushing its global haul to $1.5 billion.)

“Fate” opened No. 1 in every market where it was released in Universal’s most ambitious global release to date, with the film playing in nearly 23,000 theaters around the world. It had Imax’s biggest April worldwide opening ever and is now the fourth-biggest worldwide Imax opening of all time. The film’s massive debut also marks the highest-grossing opening ever for an African American director, F. Gary Gray.

“He is proving what a world class director he is to go from ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to this, both masterfully directed,” said Carpou.

And it’s worth pointing out that people are enjoying the highly-anticipated flick, following a year with a number of disappointing Hollywood sequels. Though critics on Rotten Tomatoes couldn’t bring themselves to muster more than a 64% rating, moviegoers (58% male; 50% under 25) gave the picture an A CinemaScore.

The domestic audience was also diverse — 41% percent of the audience members were white, and 59% were people of color (26% Hispanic, 19% black, 11% Asian and 3% “other”), according to Universal.

The film’s success and its popularity with a diverse audience appears to answer the question of how much gas is left in the “Fast and the Furious” tank. Plenty, apparently — which is good news for Universal, which is already planning two more movies for the franchise, scheduled for release in 2019 and 2021.

As for the rest of the box office, far behind in second place was DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox’s “Boss Baby,” with $15.5 million in its third week. The family flick has packed its domestic crib with $116.3 million to date.

“Beauty and the Beast,” the latest Disney remake, landed in third with $13.6 million in its fifth week. The film passed the global $1-billion mark this weekend ahead of its opening in Japan on April 21.

In fourth was Sony’s “Smurfs: The Lost Village” with $6.5 million in its second week. The animated blue folk have pulled in $24.7 million domestically to date.

Rounding out the top five was Warner Bros.’ “Going in Style” with $6.4 million in its second week. The comedy directed at more mature audiences has grossed $23.4 million to date.

Next week, five films open in wide release for a crowded and busy weekend: Disney’s “Born in China” documentary, A24’s action comedy “Free Fire,” Cinelou Films’ sci-fi thriller “Phoenix Forgotten,” Open Road’s Oscar Isaac-Christian Bale drama “The Promise” and Warner Bros.’ Katherine Heigl-Rosario Dawson thriller “Unforgettable.”

Justin Chang reviews “The Fate of the Furious," directed by F. Gary Gray and starring Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood and Nathalie Emmanuel. Video

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9:40 a.m.: This article was updated with final international box office numbers and studio comments.

This article was originally published at 8:45 a.m.