Universal’s “Furious 7” has blasted off from the starting line with $15.8 million in 3,069 Thursday night showings that started at 7 p.m. in the U.S. — portending a massive opening weekend.
The figure was more than double the opening night number for “Fast and Furious 6,” which grossed $6.5 million at 2,409 showings that began at 10 p.m. in May 2013.
The film, starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker, expands Friday to 4,004 U.S. locations and is expected to set a record for an April opening weekend with a total of about $115 million.
That will easily top current record holder “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which opened with $95 million on the same weekend last year. Marvel-Disney’s “Winter Soldier” took in $10.2 million at its Thursday night showings starting at 8 p.m.
“Fast and Furious 6” grossed $97 million in its domestic debut weekend two years ago on its way to $238 million.
“Furious 7” looks likely to become the 29th movie with a $100 million-plus opening weekend in the U.S. and the first to do so since “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” opened in November with $122 million.
“Furious 7” launched internationally with $16.9 million in 34 markets on Wednesday and will expand to 10,500 sites. It should take as much as $250 million from foreign moviegoers by the end of the Easter weekend.
The movie — replete with its trademark spectacular automotive stunts — is set in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Russia, Abu Dhabi and the Dominican Republic. Michelle Rodriguez, Jordanna Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges reprise their roles.
The durable franchise, which launched in 2001, generated more than $2.4 billion in worldwide box office from the first six movies.
Walker’s death in a car crash in November 2013 forced Universal to postpone the film’s launch from its original date last July. Production resumed in April 2014, after director James Wan, writer Chris Morgan and Universal revised the script.