Fast & Furious 6 has done what Star Trek Into Darkness failed to do in its first weekend. That is to cross (almost) the $100 million mark in one weekend, helping to make this Memorial Day weekend the biggest ever in terms of box office numbers (totaling over $320 million), surpassing the previous biggest Memorial Day weekend record in 2011.
The film grossed $98 million, which is more than the $86 million that 2011’s Fast Five made its opening weekend. And add to that figure, the over $177 million that F&F6 has made overseas to date, and you're talking serious bucks.
And these numbers don't include Monday's holiday figures yet, which is expected to push F&F6 to something like $120-122 million domestically, for a four day weekend total.
No doubt Universal is thanking the gods that they accidentally bumped into and stuck with the tentpole franchise series, considering that they actually almost gave up on it a few years ago.
According to an article this week on The Wrap, the studio was convinced that the series had no more life in it, after John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, despite grossing $127 million domestically, and another $109 million overseas (still Singleton’s biggest box office hit to date).
They even seriously contemplated making any possible future releases as cheap-jack straight-to-DVD releases (as they are currently doing with their Death Race series).
Instead, the studio decided to retool the franchise, focusing more on action and the heist premise genre, instead of underground street racing. But it was when the studio saw the audience’s reaction during test screenings, when Vin Diesel made a cameo appearance at the end of F&F3: Tokyo Drift that they realized the series still had potential.
One exec said the audience’s reaction to Diesel in Drift, “was like a rock concert. The audience went ballistic” (which is similar to the reaction from the preview audience I saw F&F6 with, when a certain actor makes a similar cameo appearance at the end of the film).
Also a major factor to the success of the series that cannot be overlooked was its inclusiveness. In order to separate it and attract a wider and more diverse audience from the typical summer blockbusters, the studio intentionally went multi-ethnic in terms of casting Asian, African-American, Latino (and everything in between) actors. The films have something for everyone.
“The result is a cast that looks like many of today's moviegoers -- social media savvy, ethnic and frequently bilingual,” one exec said, adding:"We're the Benetton of casting. We’re one of the few franchises that has Spanish spoken throughout it."
The end result is that F& F6 will definitely out-gross the previous Fast Five film, and is expected to do near $800 million worldwide.
Now, you would think that other studios and producers would take note of this for future film projects. But as I always like to say, I’m not taking any bets.
In the meantime, in other box office news, The Hangover III, which is, without question, one of the worst reviewed films of the year, did extremely well with over $54 million. But the film will no doubt drop off sharply once bad word-of-mouth gets around.
And among the other major releases this weekend, Epic held out pretty well, all things considered. But it’ll have a tough fight making its presence known as the weeks go by.