“F9” could send the box office into overdrive when it debuts overseas this weekend.
The latest entry in Universal’s high-octane franchise, which opens in Korea, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Russia and China in the coming days, is expected to bring in at least $150 million to $180 million at the international box office. Industry analysts are offering a wide range, which could balloon even higher, because it’s hard to track initial grosses in foreign markets even when the world isn’t rebounding from a pandemic. As different parts of the globe recover from COVID-19 at different paces, it’s especially challenging to forecast box office ticket sales.
Outside of the U.S, where “F9” is scheduled to open on June 25, moviegoing has nearly returned to full strength. Asian markets, particularly China and Japan, have been a source of optimism after recently ushering in several blockbusters including “Hi Mom,” “Detective Chinatown 3” and “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train.” Hollywood movies, in post-pandemic times, have seen mixed results internationally.
Among Hollywood films, the Warner Bros. movie “Godzilla vs. Kong” holds the record for the best opening overseas in the pandemic era. It debuted to $121 million from 38 foreign countries. Even if “F9” falls short of expectations, it should easily surpass that benchmark.
“F9” was initially slated for last summer, but its release was delayed numerous times during the pandemic. A movie like “F9,” which cost $200 million to produce, is engineered for global audiences and requires outsize ticket sales to get out of the red. It would have been impossible to turn a profit if it were released any earlier, since the majority of movie theaters weren’t in operation. Globally, the nine “Fast” movies have earned more than $5 billion at the box office.
The film will continue to roll out in 62 markets throughout the summer, including Australia (June 17), Latin America and the U.S. (June 25), and the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany in July.
China will be a key territory for “F9.” That’s not just because the country has recently overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest movie market and has been less reliant on Hollywood fare to fuel attendance levels. In prior “Fast and Furious” installments, nearly 30% of global box office totals came from China alone. The most recent chapters in the main “Fast” saga, 2015’s “Furious 7” and 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” were enormous hits with each making roughly $390 million in China.
In China, “F9” is currently pacing ahead of competitors in terms of presales and has already sold $10.5 million (RMB66.6 million) worth of tickets for opening day. More than 80.7% of the country’s movie theaters — accounting for roughly 154,000 screens — will be devoted to playing “F9.” Yet it remains to be seen if ticket sales can surpass (or even match) other “Fast” movies in the territory.
Filmmaker Justin Lin, who directed four prior “Fast and Furious” movies,” returned for the series’ latest lap in theaters. “F9” stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena and Helen Mirren and follows Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his family as they take on their fiercest foe yet — Dom’s brother. That journey somehow takes them to space.
So far, “F9” has received mixed feedback. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman says the film “gets stuck in franchise overdrive.” That’s saying something, considering the property’s increasingly loony stunts, which don’t even pretend to obey the laws of physics, have become its greatest marketing tool. Yet Gleiberman notes “it goes through the motions with more energy than intoxication.” IndieWire’s critic David Ehrlich gave the film a “C+” grade, but offered that “for the first time in a long time it feels like it’s drifting in the right direction again.”
After more than a year of movie delays, audiences appear to be less bogged down by plot and more hypnotized by onscreen action when it comes to buying movie tickets. “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat” generated promising sales in the U.S. (while being offered simultaneously on HBO Max), though neither inspired notably strong reviews.
Leading up to the release of “F9” in the States, Hollywood is planning to unveil a range of major titles including “Black Widow,” “A Quiet Place Part II” and “In the Heights.” For theater owners, who have gone months without much to show on the big screen, summer means one thing: it’s finally time to put the pedal to the metal.
Becky Davis contributed to this report.