Universal’s tentpole “The Fate of the Furious” sped to $10.4 million during Thursday night preview screenings in North America.
Preview showings for the actioner began at 7 p.m. at 3,310 theaters.
The eighth installment of the franchise expands to 4,311 locations on Friday — the widest opening ever for an April release. “The Fate of the Furious” is expected to gross at least $100 million for the Easter weekend, which would make it the second-highest launch in “Fast” franchise history.
The Thursday number fell short of the $15.8 million taken in two years ago by “Furious 7” on its way to a massive $147 million opening weekend. “Furious 7,” which launched two years after the death of franchise star Paul Walker, went on to haul $353 million domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide.
“The Fate of the Furious” reeled in $19.7 million on Wednesday from openings in eight territories and previews in another dozen markets. China’s pre-sales for the weekend had totaled a record-breaking $43.5 million.
“The Fate of the Furious,” starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron, centers on Diesel’s Dom Toretto character turning his back on his family and joining forces with Theron’s icy villain. The film, directed by F. Gary Gray, brims with over-the-top action and stunts, including a chase scene with a Russian submarine in Siberia.
“Fate” is being released in 63 territories, along with the U.S. and Canada. Sources estimate that the film carries a $250 million budget.
Open Road’s animated family film “Spark: A Space Tail” also opens on Friday at 353 sites.
Analysts have predicted that “Fate” should top $380 million and could even blow past the $400 million mark globally. That would outpace the $397.7 million bow for “Furious 7.” With $391.3 million, that movie remains the highest-grossing U.S.-made film in China’s history.
Year-to-date box office has been performing well above the same point in 2016, with $3.243 billion as of April 12, according to comScore.com. That’s up 5.1%, thanks to stronger than expected performances by Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Fox’s “Logan” and “The Boss Baby,” and Universal’s “Get Out” and “Split.”
The third weekend of “The Boss Baby” and the fifth frame of “Beauty and the Beast” will battle for second with about $15 million each. “Beauty and the Beast” had taken in $438 million domestically — the 14th-highest gross of all time — and became the 29th title to cross the $1 billion worldwide mark on Wednesday.
“It’s time for moviegoers to get in, sit down, buckle up, and hold on for what promises to be a solid debut for the eighth installment of Universal’s long-running ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “This has been a magic year for Universal with their ‘Split’ and ‘Get Out’ outperforming projections, and ‘Fate’ should provide yet another hit for the studio. Since nothing says Easter like a submarine chasing a Lamborghini, this will be the latest 2017 release to draw enthusiastic crowds to the multiplex seeking a pure, escapist, popcorn movie experience.”