It’s official: summer is here. Opening to an unprecedented $83.6 million estimate, Universal’s Fast Five injected some serious gas into 2011’s sleepy domestic box office and sped past a number of records: Best April opening (Universal beat its previous record with 2009’s Fast and Furious –$70.95 million), Best Universal opening ever (outstripped the $72.1 million three-day bow of 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park) as well as the best bows for Dwayne Johnson (outflanked the $38.7 million posted by Get Smart), Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (previous highs for both were Fast and Furious). As a result, the total weekend B.O. surged 55% over the same frame last year, $147.5 million to $95.4 million.
Overseas, Fast Five in its second frame made another $45.3 million from 14 territories, raising its foreign haul to $81.4 million and its worldwide take $165 million.
“None of this was a given, none of this obvious,” said distribution chief Nikki Rocco. “But every decision was made carefully to try and do a stunning act that would change this franchise from a car-racing film to the action film that it is. Everything from the concept to the cast, to how we made the movie, to the marketing campaign — it was a brilliant series of strategic decisions.”
Empowering Fast Five’s stateside returns even more was its release date change. Originally the film occupied the June 8 slot with Super 8. However, Universal took note of how they changed the B.O. rules with Fast and Furious in April 2009 and took over this weekend.
With gas hitting a record high, it appeared as though everyone, including the young 18-35 demo, had stopped going to the movies in 2011. As industry execs scratched their heads, it became obvious that they had to dynamite moviegoers out of their homes with a full-blooded event film. And with several tentpoles stacked on top of each other in the next few weeks, crowds should spillover from Fast Five into Thor and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and so on.
Two other titles, Disney’s $8-million tween comedy Prom and Weinstein Co./Kanbar Entertainment’s $30 million-plus moppet sequel Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil were dwarfed by Fast Five’s masses, respectively earning $5 million and $4.1 million. It might be considered perfect timing to release a film entitled Prom as the school year ends, but older teens wouldn’t dare miss Fast Five. Disney will likely earn enough of tween allowance money to break even with Prom., but the film’s inability to break out stems from its package: It looks like another clean teen redux of High School Musical without the music. Disney has had better luck with the under-14 demo with Disney Channel feature spinoffs in the late spring/early May sesh: i.e. 2003’s $17.3 million The Lizzie McGuire Movie ($42.7 million). Movie critics gave the film a 39% rotten score.
With Easter over, Hop slid down the charts, opening the door for another family feature: Hoodwinked Too!. While Weinstein Co. pushed out some action-fueled trailers, stateside crowds weren’t won over by the first film and you couldn’t expect them to be more intrigued by the second. Maybe the B+ Cinemascore buzz will open up more minds. However, it’s up to foreign and video markets to make this film work, much like the first Hoodwinked ($59 million foreign, balancing out domestic’s $51.4 million). Critics were no help in persuading moms and dads with a 10% rotten rating. On the upside for the Weinsteins’ ledgers: Hoodwinked Too! was a service deal, so they aren’t going to lose a lot of skin. Girls under 12 turned up (71% under 12, 56% female).
At a cost for Fast Five between $150 -$170 million, Universal doesn’t have to worry about its bottom line either. More than Universal’s tie-ins with Gameloft’s cell phone game and the Dodge Charger car, what made Fast Five take off was word-of-mouth. Fast Five one-ups its previous installments because it packs more goods: an action hero face-off (The Rock vs. Vin Diesel), actions scenes that rival Speed and a flashback-cliffhanger ending. It earned an A Cinemascore and an A+ under 18, as well as critics with a 79% fresh — and they usually hate action movies. Fast Five buckled in young guys (56% male, 52% under 25).
Weekend Box Office Top Ten Chart:
1. Fast Five (Universal) $83.6 million in its first weekend at 3,644 theaters. $22,950 theater average. Domestic total: $83.6 million.
2. Rio(Fox) $14.4 million down 45% in its third weekend at 3,708 theaters. $3,883 theater average. Domestic total: $103.6 million.
3. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (Lionsgate) $10.1 million down 60% in its second weekend at 2,288 theaters. $4,394 theater average. Domestic total: $41.1 million.
4. Water for Elephants (Fox) $9.125 million down 46% in its second weekend at 2,820 theaters. $3,236 theater average. Domestic total: $32.3 million.
5. Prom (Disney) $5 million in its first weekend at 2,730 theaters. $1,832 theater average. Domestic total: $5 million.
6. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (Weinstein Co.) $4.14 million in its first weekend at 2,505 theaters. $1,653 theater average. Domestic total: $4.14 million.
7. Soul Surfer (Tri-Star) $3.3 million down 39% in its fourth weekend at 2,010 theaters. $1,642 theater average. Domestic total: $33.8 million.
8. Insidious (Film District) $2.7 million down 48% in its fifth weekend at 1,584 theaters. $1,696 theater average. Domestic total: $48.3 million.
9. Hop (Universal/Relativity) $2.6 million down 79% in its fifth weekend at 3,176 theaters. $805 theater average. Domestic total: $105.3 million.
10. Source Code (Summit/Vendome) $2.5 million down 51% in its fifth weekend at 1,645 theaters. $1,539 theater average. Domestic total: $48.9 million.