In what has become a tradition, Universal is kicking off the summer in the middle of April with its eighth Fast and Furious title in the 16-year-old franchise. The Fate of the Furious opens this weekend, and in regards to its theatrical debut, it will be a shot heard around the world with an opening between $375M on the low end and $440M on the high end.

Universal Pictures

Should Fate of the Furious race past $397.7M, it will beat the opening of its predecessor, 2015’s Furious 7which also was a global Easter release, and become Universal’s second-biggest global opener after 2015’s Jurassic World ($525M). Without a doubt, the weekend will propel the Fast and Furious franchise beyond the $4 billion mark at the B.O. Through seven titles, it currently stands north of $3.9B. Uni first moved Fast and Furious to April with the 2009 fourth installment Fast and Furious ($70.9M domestic opening, $155M stateside final, $363M global), followed by 2011’s Fast Five ($86.1M, $209.8M, global $626M).

Fate of the Furious will be on 20K locations in 63 foreign territories including China but sans Japan (which bows on April 28), and in U.S./Canada, the film will be the widest pre-summer release ever at an estimated 4,304 venues, besting the 4,242 opening theater count of last Easter’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In sum, Universal’s most ambitious worldwide distribution release in the studio’s history.

The eighth-quel, which is directed by F. Gary Gray, who takes over for F7‘s James Wan, comes with an asterisk at the box office. After the huzzah of F7‘s $147.1M domestic opening, the laws of gravity as they relate to sequels indicate that F8 will ease down. Analysts are forecasting a $100M-$110M over three days in U.S./Canada with previews kicking off Thursday at 7PM. And that’s just normal in regards to the B.O. dip. Overseas is expected to clock more than F7‘s $250.5M with a $275M-$330M debut for F8, which revs up Wednesday eight markets including Australia, France and Korea. By the weekend, foreign will have 688 IMAX screens in the tank with 392 of those in China. Why higher? F7 was impacted by currency fluctuations two years ago, plus that foreign bow came without China and Russia. China is the real diesel in F8‘s tank, because if it really pops, some analysts believe that a $350M-plus foreign opening isn’t out of the question. Folks think the stars would have to truly align everywhere for that to happen — there are other factors to bear in mind including warm, sunny weather in parts of Europe which can slow moviegoing. Anything over Jurassic World’s $316.7M international launch is a new all-time opening record overseas. That film, which bowed later in the year, had China and Russia in its opening suite at $100.1M and $10M, respectively.

F7 was something of a pinnacle for the series given how it served as an emotional goodbye for fans in the wake of star Paul Walker’s untimely tragic death. Other factors that played into F7‘s $147.1M stateside opening, $250.5M launch and final $1.5 billion worldwide take (the sixth-best for any film) included the anticipation built up due to the pic’s delay from 2014 to 2015 on account of Walker’s passing; the cast’s mammoth social media wattage, the largest for any film franchise, spurred by Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Ludacris, which reaches 600M; as well as the perfect release date when mostly everyone around the globe are on holiday. And of course Universal’s brilliant multi-faceted marketing campaign.

Charlize Theron Fate of the Furious
Universal

As such, despite the industry foreseeing F8 as the one tentpole that will fuel the majority of the month’s tickets sales before Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens up on May 5, Uni isn’t expecting F8 to outstrip F7. Given how F7 was Walker’s swan song, it served as a cathartic experience for fans, and that can’t be replicated. While “family” was the main theme of F7, F8 has been sold on its “destruction of family” premise whereby Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto turns against his car heist gang. Stakes are also upped in this sequel with the addition of Charlize Theron as the villain who turns Dom. Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood are also newcomers to the cast which also includes Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Kurt Russell.

Although the Easter holiday is the same, the release configuration here is different than on Furious 7, which bolted out on Wednesday April 1, 2015, heading into 63 markets — but without China or Russia. China ultimately was the top market worldwide with $391.3M to outpace all of domestic’s $353M. Russia, for its part, grossed $33M when the ruble was in a better position (it opened to $16M in then-dollars). Its global cume stands at $1.52B, good for No. 6 all-time.

China As The Nitrous Oxide for Fate of the Furious

In China, Furious 7 opened on a Sunday in 2015 during the second frame of international play. That skews comps here. The Sunday, however, set a record for the biggest single-day ever in Chinese box office history at $64.2M and the largest one-day attendance of all time. It still holds the titles. The 2nd China frame (which was its first full FSS) added $90M for an 8-day total of $252.6M.

Currently, IMAX in China has already set a record for the fastest pre-sales to hit 10M RMB, driving to the milestone six days ahead of launch. That tops Captain America: Civil War which got there three days before launch. Overall presales are close to 100 RMB, inclusive of IMAX, and could also be record-busting.

Local movie portal and ticketing site Mtime says presales indicate a “storm” has been brewing across the country. Indeed, sources suggest that an element of the potential draw on F8 is that it is poised to play across not only the major cities, but also reach into the 3rd, 4th and 5th tier markets.

It’s worth noting that China has been fickle this past year and F8 could act as a barometer of whether the market has reached a peak. Its predecessor legged out to become the highest-grossing import of all time and has held that mantle for two years.

But it’s also worth noting that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opened to $93.7M in February. Given the success of F7, watchers expect F8 to outgun that film.

Turning back to F7 overall, the film opened No. 1 in all international hubs and was at the time the 3rd biggest overseas launch weekend behind Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($314M) and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($260.4M). That lineup has since been joined and reshuffled by Universal’s Jurassic World ($316.7M at No. 1), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($281M at No. 3) and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice ($256.5M at No. 5).

AP

The F8 cast, whose international draw is key to the franchise’s success alongside the automotive antics, has been rounding the globe with stops in Beijing for Theron and Statham (a fan favorite in the Middle Kingdom). They did live chats and a red carpet event with Gray there. Theron, Diesel and Gray also traveled to Berlin, Paris and Madrid. In the UK, Sky Cinema has dedicated a channel to all seven previous films which are running from April 8-17.

Says an analyst, “The anticipation is huge, the marketing has been well received by fans. … The franchise is now such a juggernaut and continues to deliver on its promise to fans that ‘it’s unlikely to see’ much, if any, drop-off on the opening of the last one. … Yes, the currency exchange rate is a factor and will cause some issues, but China is sure to be massive.”

For reference, the final Top 5 offshore markets on F7 were China ($391.3M), the UK ($57.6M), Mexico ($51.8M), Brazil ($46.5M) and Germany ($40.5M).