Furious 7 races into pole position at the box office

Furious 7 raced to the top of the box-office charts on its opening weekend in North America, shattering expectations by earning a stunning US$143.6 million (Dh527.4m), according to Rentrak estimates.

A scene from Furious 7. Courtesy Universal Pictures
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Furious 7 raced to the top of the box-office charts on its opening weekend in North America, shattering expectations by earning a stunning US$143.6 million (Dh527.4m), according to Rentrak estimates.

The seventh film in the Fast and the Furious franchise – which was partly filmed in Abu Dhabi and produced with local partners Abu Dhabi Film Commission and twofour54 – achieved the ninth-­biggest opening of all time, and toppled the previous April-opening ­record-holder, last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which made $95 million on the same weekend last year.

While the Fast and Furious films have grown in popularity over the course of the past three films, Furious 7’s huge opening is also thought to be at least partly a result of audience interest in star Paul Walker, who died in a non-filming-related car crash in November 2013.

“It probably created some curiosity but, at the same time, [the film] fits in so well with the overall continuing saga of the Fast and Furious franchise,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “It’s a motivator, but it’s not by any means the prime motivator to see the movie.”

There is also a sense that massive openings such as Furious 7 point to the creeping expansion of summer blockbuster season, which seems to be starting earlier as studios try to stake their claim on prime dates.

But for Carpou, this is almost irrelevant when it comes to ­getting audiences to turn out in droves for a film.

“It’s that corny adage that if you build it, they will come,” he said.

As the most ambitious release in Universal’s history, Furious 7 opened on 10,005 screens internationally as well, picking up $240.4 million from 63 territories for a $384 million worldwide debut – a 48 per cent increase over Fast & Furious 6.

Furious 7 should continue to perform well for the next few weeks, with no other big blockbuster releases until Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits cinemas on April 30 in the UAE and May 1 in the US.

“This could be the first in the franchise to flirt with the ­billion-dollar mark,” said ­Peter ­Dergarabedian, senior ­media analyst for box-office firm ­Rentrak.

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