Universal Pictures officially announced Friday that “F9,” the latest entry in the “Fast & Furious” saga, will hit China on May 21, more than a month ahead of its June 25 debut in North America.

It had passed Chinese censorship approvals and given permission for theatrical release last week.

Along with China, “F9” will also debut in several foreign territories, including Russia, Korea, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam, throughout the month of May. The big-budgeted series is hugely popular overseas, and its performance at the international box office will be key to turning a profit. In the U.S., “F9” is intended to kick off the summer season, yet moviegoing isn’t anywhere close to reaching pre-pandemic levels.

The film will hit only Korea ahead of China, on May 19. It will reach Taiwan on May 21 as well.

Universal said that China was chosen as one of the first markets to open the film globally given that its market is accounting for more than 30% of global business at the moment, and has already demonstrated huge box office potential in the wake of its theatrical post-COVID re-opening.

Directed by Taiwan-born Justin Lin, the ninth installment of the long-running “Fast & Furious” franchise features Van Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, and other returning stars, along with newcomers including Cardi B. and John Cena. Five of the previous eight main “Fast & Furious” franchise films have screened in China, as well as the 2019 spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw.” Two of those films have earned more in China than in the U.S. They are 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” the most successful film in the country thus far, with sales of $393 million (far more than the film’s U.S. earnings of $226 million), and “Hobbs & Shaw,” which earned $201 million in China — $27 million more than its North American gross.

A look at the franchise’s China box office over time tracks its growing popularity in the Middle Kingdom. 2009’s “Fast & Furious” grossed only about $4 million, 2011’s “Fast Five” made about $38 million, “Fast & Furious 6” earned $66.5 million and “Furious 7” reeled in $147 million.

Two Fast Saga films rank on China’s top 10 list of highest grossing Hollywood films of all time. They are the eight installment “The Fate of the Furious” at number two,” and “Furious 7,” at number three, behind only “Avengers: Endgame.”

“The Fate of the Furious” holds the record for the biggest three-day premiere of an MPA title with $199 million (RMB1.3 billion), though it was recently pushed out of its slot as the highest opening weekend in the country of all time by local blockbuster “Detective Chinatown 3.”