Justin Lin’s F9 finally opened in North America this weekend with a $70 million debut. Yes, that’s lower than the $71 million launch of Fast & Furious and every Fast & Furious movie since then, including Fast Five ($86 million in 2011), Fast & Furious 6 (a $117 million Fri-Mon launch in 2013), Furious 7 ($147 million in 2015) and Fate of the Furious ($99 million in 2017). Considering that Fate of the Furious took an understandable drop from Furious 7 (no nationwide mourning for Paul Walker, no generational coronation for the franchise, no super-cool notion of Jason Statham as the prime baddie, etc.), it would also make sense that F9 would open below F8.
There were no real added value elements this time out, all due respect to John Cena’s decency and charisma and the #justice4Han folks. News that there would be 11 Fast & Furious movies instead of ten made this Vin Diesel vs. John Cena flick less anticipated. The reviews were mixed-positive as was (comparatively speaking) audience buzz. It earned a B+ from Cinemascore, compared to a B+ for The Fast and the Furious back in 2001 (when it was an unknown quantity) and A or A- grades for every sequel since. F9 likely wasn’t looking at another $97 million Fri-Sun/$117 million Fri-Mon debut weekend had it opened in a non-Covid world in Memorial Day weekend 2020.
That’s not to say that F9 would have opened below $70 million in normal times, although Spectre opened with $70 million in 2015 and legged out to $200 million domestic/$881 million worldwide. In conventional circumstances, F9 might have nabbed a $80 million Fri-Sun/$92 million Fri-Mon Memorial Day weekend debut. Considering the Covid curve, strong legs for A Quiet Place part II and the new normal of nine big-deal streaming platforms (Peacock, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Disney+ all didn’t exist two years ago) all offering your favorite movies for the monthly price of a single movie ticket, I’d argue that a $70 million Fri-Sun domestic launch for F9 is close to “business as usual.”
It’s the biggest Fri-Sun debut weekend since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ($179 million) in December of 2019. F9’s $30 million opening day was the biggest single-day gross since the first week of Episode IX’s domestic run. F9 had a 2.3x weekend multiplier earned 10.2% of its opening via Thursday previews. Furious 9 ($147 million from a $67.4 million Friday and $15.6 million in Thursday previews) had a 2.18x weekend multiplier and earned 10.6% of its weekend via previews. Fate of the Furious ($98.8 million/$46.5 million/$10.4 million) had a 2.12x multiplier and 10.5% via previews. It’s, by default, the leggiest Fri-Sun Fast sequel opener since Fast Five ($86.2 million/$34.4 million/$3.8 million) in 2011.
The Fast Saga sequels have been pretty consistent. Fast & Furious ($155 million from a $71 million debut), Fast & Furious 6 ($238 million from a $117 million Fri-Mon debut) and Fate of the Furious ($226 million/$99 million) were arguably frontloaded. 2 Fast 2 Furious ($127 million/$50 million), Fast Five ($210 million/$86 million) and Furious 7 ($353 million/$147 million) had over/under 2.5x multipliers. Hobbs & Shaw ($175 million/$60 million) benefited from being the last biggie of summer 2019 and legged out to 2.91x, while the glorified spin-off Tokyo Drift ($62.5 million/$24 million) had a 2.6x multiplier. Presume a final domestic gross between $152 million and $170 million, with a possible upswing to $175-$180 million.
F9 is not among the best-loved sequels but may have a pretty open field. Black Widow opens in two weeks, but after that it’s a question of whether Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16) and Snake Eyes (July 23) break out. If not, F9’s got a month before Jungle Cruise (July 30) and The Suicide Squad (August 6). Since it opened above $50 million, it gets a 31-day window. That A Quiet Place part II is legging out like a champ despite a 45-day window, and that The Croods: A New Age earned $33 million of its $58 million cume after PVOD availability (on day 21), means it may not be a huge factor.
So, yes, at a glance, Universal’s choice to move F9 to late June essentially worked in terms of kicking off what counts as the tentpole-centric portion of summer 2021. It was trying to do this summer what Tenet couldn’t do last summer, with the important caveat being that North American theaters were actually doing their part this time. Theaters nationwide (including New York and California this time) are open and the next wave of biggies (Black Widow, Space Jam 2, Jungle Cruise, Suicide Squad, Free Guy, etc.) are still on tap for cinemas alongside the various horror movies (The Forever Purge, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, Old, Don’t Breathe 2 and Candyman) already doing their part.
F9 had already earned $216 million in China (on par with Hobbs & Shaw’s $201 million cume but down from Fate of the Furious’ $393 million cume) and $297 million heading into the weekend. Thanks to the North American debut and a combined $38 million “overseas debut” in Mexico, Brazil and the U.K., its new global cume is $405 million worldwide, becoming just the third Hollywood release to pass that milestone (after Bad Boys For Life in January 2020and Godzilla Vs. Kong this past March) in 2020 and 2021. It should swiftly zoom past Japan’s Demon Slayer: The Movie ($500 million) as both this year and last year’s biggest-grossing movie. Your move, Black Widow…