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‘Furious 7’ Racing to Huge $140 Million Opening Weekend

Universal’s “Furious 7″ is speeding toward a record-setting opening weekend of nearly $140 million at 4,004 U.S. locations, according to revised Friday estimates.

Furious 7” blasted off with $58 million to $60 million on Friday — including $15.8 million in 3,069 Thursday-night showings that started at 7 p.m. in the U.S.

Recent estimates had placed the Friday-Sunday number at $115 million, which were revised upward early Friday to as much as $125 million. But Friday’s afternoon numbers — based on West Coast matinees and East Coast early evening screenings — indicated that the Easter weekend would finish between $135 million and $138 million.

The film, starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker, will easily set a record for an April opening weekend should the estimates hold. The current April record holder, Marvel-Disney’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” opened with $95 million on the same weekend last year.

All signals now suggest that the “Furious 7” opening will easily exceed that of “Fast and Furious 6,″ which grossed $97 million in its domestic debut weekend two years ago on its way to $238 million. It will also 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.

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At $138 million, “Furious 7” would tie “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” as the 11th highest domestic opener of all time. And it will exceed what had been the top opening of 2015 — the $85 million three-day launch of Universal’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” — by over 60%.

“Furious 7″ opened internationally with $60 million in its first two days on Wednesday and Thursday 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.

Critical reception for “Furious 7” has been strong, with an 82% “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator site.

The durable franchise, which launched in 2001, generated more than $2.4 billion in worldwide box office from the first six movies. “Fast and Furious 6” has been the best performer, with $238 million in domestic grosses and $550 million internationally.

Rival studios held off on launching another major release this weekend. DreamWorks’ second weekend of animated comedy “Home,” released by Fox, should lead the rest of the pack at roughly $30 million to lift its 10-day U.S. total to the $100 million vicinity.

Warner Bros.’ second session of Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy “Get Hard” will likely see much of its core male audience opt for “Furious 7.″ The R-rated prison comedy has been forecast to decline 50% from its opening weekend numbers to finish around $17 million.

Disney’s fourth frame of “Cinderella” and the third weekend of Lionsgate’s “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” should each pull in around $10 million.

With “American Sniper” and “Fifty Shades” overperforming and “Furious 7” delivering at the high end of expectations, 2015 is shaping up as a considerable improvement over 2014. First-quarter U.S. box office rose 3% to $2.47 billion, and Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” is the next blockbuster set to launch, on May 1.

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