‘Fast and Furious’ a Speed Demon on Friday

Fast and Furious left even the loftiest of expectations in the dust with an absolutely staggering $30.1 million debut on Friday (with some reports as high as $32 million). This marks the largest opening day ever for any film during the industry’s off-season which runs from January-April and September-October. It also marks the highest opening day ever for a Universal Studios production, eclipsing The Bourne Ultimatum‘s opening day by 23%. Fast and Furious also blew past 2 Fast 2 Furious‘ opening day by 53%, the previous largest opening day of the franchise.

The fourth entry in the popular street racing franchise benefited immensely from reuniting all four of the principal cast members that powered the original The Fast and the Furious to a strong run in theaters back in 2001. The marketing team made this clear in their ad campaign and also wisely emphasized the high-octane races, which has consistently worked in the past.

There’s no doubt that Fast and Furious will be front loaded, but a weekend total in the $72-75 million range is still likely. That would be the largest opening weekend since The Dark Knight, even drifting higher than the vampire phenomenon, Twilight. We’ll know more on Sunday when the official studio estimates are released.

Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo

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No Holiday Cheer for ‘The Spirit’

<<‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend<<

Not all of the new releases enjoyed a strong start. Debuting well back in 9th place was The Spirit which tanked with just $6.5 million from 2,509 theaters over the weekend and $10.3 million including Thursday. The debut was a mere fraction of the launches from Frank Miller’s previous efforts, 300 and Sin City. Even worse is the collapse of the film as the weekend progressed. It debuted with an already disappointing $3.8 million on Thursday, but it fell a disturbing 32% on Friday and continued to slide on Saturday and Sunday.

All of this happened despite a decent cast and an aggressive marketing campaign from Lionsgate, which has been suffering from growing pains this year in its effort to become a major studio.

Yes Man fared the best among last week’s trio of new releases with a 9% dip to $16.7 million, good enough for 5th. It’s $49.8 million 10 day haul is similar to Jim Carrey’s previous December comedy, Fun with Dick and Jane. Meanwhile, Seven Pounds continues to underperform for a Will Smith picture. It only dipped 11% for a $13.2 million weekend, but the running total of $38.8 million is well behind nearly every other film from Smith this decade.

In 7th, the computer animation, The Tale of Despereaux slid 12% for $8.9 million in its second weekend. The 10 day total stands at a modest $27.4 million for the Universal Studios production. The Day the Earth Stood Still continued to quietly fall with its 22% decline to $7.7 million. It’s 17 day total of $63.5 million is well below expectations, and $100 million is now likely out of reach for 20th Century Fox.

Rounding out the top 10th was Doubt, which expanded into wide release on Christmas. Over the weekend, the awards hopeful gathered $5.3 million from a modest 1,267 theaters resulting in a decent $4,214 per theater average. The total has risen to $8.5 million.

The high number of new releases and the passing of X-mas caused Four Christmases to fall from 5th to 11th. The Vaughn-Witherspoon comedy fell 37% to $4.8 million. After 6 weeks, the WB film has earned a strong $111.6 million and will likely finish with around $125 million. Twilight continued to display some staying power with a small 9% drop to $4.7 million, despite losing nearly 40% of its screens. With $167.3 million so far, the vampire romance stands a chance at becoming the highest grossing picture of the holiday season.

In 14th place but still very relevant, Bolt‘s $3.4 million was enough to push it past $100 million over the weekend. The Disney animation will likely finish around $115 million. Fellow November release, Quantum of Solace, finished in 17th with $1.4 million. The latest Bond film has shot up $164.3 million and will likely overtake Casino Royale to become the highest grossing film in the long-running franchise.

The expensive Fox dud, Australia, collapsed 50% to $1.1 million, mainly because of a severe loss to its theater count. With just $44.3 million domestically, the Nicole Kidman epic will need strong international performances for it to have any chance at profitability. Rounding out the top 20 was Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa with $923,018. Its solid $174.9 million total is the highest of the season, though Twilight will soon overtake it.

<<‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend<<

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo & The Numbers

‘Twilight’ Bows to Record Midnight Debut

Early reports seem to point to Twilight breaking a few records from its massive midnight bow. The vampire romance flick has grossed $6-8 million from midnight and 3am shows, which is more than double the number from Sex and the City. If that estimate holds, then Twilight will have broken the record for the largest midnight bow for a non-sequel. It also scored the second largest midnight bow of the year, behind only the record-breaking $18.5 million bow from The Dark Knight. School is in session for Twilight‘s target demographic, which makes the Thursday night / Friday morning performance all the more impressive.

This huge midnight number points to an opening day of nearly $35 million, which would already exceed the production budget of the film. If it does reach $35M on Friday, then a weekend north of $75 million is certainly possible. That would be larger than Quantum of Solace‘s $67.5 million debut from last weekend. At this point, future sequels are a virtual certainty.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers