Universal’s Furious 7 is revving its engines at the box office with its international rollout starting tomorrow, followed by its domestic blast-off with previews Thursday. When F7 crosses the finish line Sunday, insiders are estimating that the global bow will range from $225 million-$275 million. As is typical with these tentpoles that are tracking through the roof, the question is always, “How high?” Stateside, F7 will be Universal’s widest release in studio history at an estimated 4,003 theaters. Abroad, F7 is racing around in 63 territories on about 12,000 screens.
Pic will have some extra nitro in the tank from large-format play with Imax and exhibitors’ internal large-format theaters, totaling 772 U.S. venues or 19% of the theater count. Imax is calling F7 its widest global day-and-date release at 809 theaters including China on April 12 (that figure counts 365 U.S./Canada locations). F7 will play in 3D in certain foreign locales, but in the U.S. it’s a 2D release. And if large format isn’t enough gas for F7, 78% of K-12 schools and 37% colleges are off on Good Friday per Rentrak Theatrical, with the Monday after Easter seeing those figures shift to 48% and 12%, respectively.
What is expected is that F7 will blow past the three-day bow of May 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 which made $97.4M at No. 1 during a Memorial Day weekend when it faced off with The Hangover Part III and 20th Century Fox’s Epic. On the low end, F7‘s domestic FSS is eyeing $100M and up to $115M on the high end. Already, advance tickets sales for F7 are exceeding Fast & Furious 6‘s on MovieTickets.com by 34%. Sources tell us that international tracking is difficult with a lot of noise around a brand that has so much equity, with F7‘s foreign bow ranging from $125M-$160M (more aggressive estimates think F7 could blow its hood off to $180M).
For months, F7 has been propelled by a stellar social media promotion by Uni and its stars; not to mention, Fast & Furious fans are eager to see this particular installment given Paul Walker’s death during production in November 2013. Audiences from U.S. preview screenings, which have included intros by F&F star Vin Diesel, have not only been pleased with the level of action that F7 delivers, but are greatly moved by Walker’s final appearance on screen.
Universal has shown that it can play the F&F at both sides of April, as well as summer. By unspooling F7 this weekend, it gives the film four weeks of extra play before Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron comes barreling into the marketplace. While F&F 6 holds the franchise’s highest opening of all time Stateside, 2009’s Fast And Furious, the fourth installment, showed that it could take April to new heights with a $70.95M opening. Then in 2011, one weekend before summer kicked off during the first frame of May, Uni showed it could open summer early with Fast Five bowing to $86.2M. Captain America: The Winter Soldier outstripped these F&F opening records last April with $95M, but F7 is looking to take the month’s record back.
Last weekend’s wide entries, DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox’s Home and Warner Bros’ Get Hard, will also continue to benefit from kids out of school. The former will see a 35%-37% dip from its $52.1M opening for $32.8M-$33.9M domestically. Given how F7 is going after the same male demo as Get Hard, look for that R-rated comedy to decline 40%-45% for $20M-$28.7M.
International Outlook for F7
F7 revs up in France first tomorrow with heavy sneaks in other key markets that usually bow on either a Thursday or Friday — including Germany and Italy. As of Friday, the well-reviewed, high-octane thriller will be in 60+ offshore markets and on anywhere from 12K-14K screens depending on how multiplexes divvy up their space. Notably absent from the first suite of territories are Russia, China and Japan. Russia, which is shying away from mega-Hollywood releases that coincide with major holidays, will go on April 9 and China will open on about half of the country’s screens on April 12, a Sunday. As is typically the case in a land where piracy is almost non-existent, Japan is the last market to bow, on April 17.
Three of the principals — Diesel, Jason Statham and Michelle Rodriguez — journeyed to Beijing last week to amp up excitement. By accounts, it was a strong sendoff for the picture, coupled with three days of a worldwide junket in Los Angeles (Universal similarly did a global junket for Fifty Shades Of Grey in NY rather than send talent all over the map — save for the Berlin Film Festival where the movie debuted). Statham is a big star in the Middle Kingdom — when The Expendables 3 was readying its release there, he was the one sent to fly the flag.
As for comps, one need look no further than 2013’s Fast & Furious 6. That film debuted internationally in May. The rollout was patterned differently with an initial release in the UK on May 17, ahead of the following week’s global push. In the UK, it debuted to $13.2M and then added another 60 markets and $162M the next frame, according to historical data from Universal. So, the opening number to beat internationally would be $175.2M — except that we’re not talking about the same markets and then there is the currency issue.
Russia, for example, was among the first group of markets for F&F6 with a huge $18M start, but won’t factor this weekend. While industry projections see F7 doing about 20% better than F&F6 in local currency terms, there’s been about a 12-15% drop on the dollar since 2013 as exchange rates with the euro, ruble, pound and peso have been in freefall.
Similar to the atmosphere in the U.S., F7 will be accessible to kids over 15, and in some cases 12, in overseas markets. It also has a pretty wide open track over the next several weeks before Avengers: Age of Ultron lands. The key holdovers internationally, where many kids are on a break from school, are currently Cinderella, Insurgent, Home and Kingsman, although the latter is going into its ninth offshore frame and will be out of China by the time F7 arrives. China was the biggest overseas market for F&F6 at $67M, followed by the UK at $38.5M, Mexico at $36.6M, Russia at $34.1M and Germany at $29.7M.
The strong reviews are working in favor of F7 and the franchise as a whole has seen its profile rise after the 2009 reboot which made about $363M worldwide ($155M domestic, $210M offshore). And it just grew from there with Fast Five making $626.1M globally ($209.8M domestic, $416.3M foreign) and F&F6 the highest of them all with $788.7M ($238.7M domestic, $550M overseas).