When Fast & Furious opened in the US a week ago with $71m (?7.6m), the pressure was on Universal's international territories to deliver stonking results. But few seriously thought the UK, which had never produced an opening weekend above ?m for a film in this cars-and-crime franchise, would come close to matching the American success. The result ??.93m over the three-day weekend, and ?.01m including takings on Easter Monday ?is far in excess of industry expectations.
- Fast & Furious
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The original The Fast and the Furious took the market by surprise when it opened in the US in June 2001 with $40m. The film's UK debut figure, ?.76m, was significantly less potent, possibly because it was released three days after the 9/11 terror attacks. Despite losing Vin Diesel, sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious opened strongly with $50.5m in the US and ?.75m in the UK, both in June 2003. Three years later the third film, Tokyo Drift, which jettisoned Paul Walker but welcomed back an unbilled Diesel in cameo, was less commercially persuasive: launching with $24m and ?.81m respectively. Both Walker and Diesel are back for Fast & Furious and so, it seems, are the fans of the earlier films, as well as a whole new audience that was probably still at primary school in 2001.
The result restores good cheer to a studio that just the week before was rocked by the commercial disappointment of its hugely-hyped Richard Curtis comedy. The Boat That Rocked shed a relatively slim 28% to slide two rungs to fourth place this weekend, no doubt boosted by a relative lack of Easter sunshine. After 13 days on release, Universal's pirate-radio tale has grossed ?.21m but is clearly not destined to match Love Actually's total UK haul of over ?6m.
In the US, Zac Efron comedy 17 Again is being steered clear of Hannah Montana: The Movie and will instead release this Friday (17 April). Here in the UK, with the Miley Cyrus flick not scheduled for release until 1 May, local distributor Entertainment took advantage of the school holidays, positioning its body-swap flick as the top choice for tween and teen girls. The result ??.56m over three days, and ?.3m including Easter Monday ?is marginally ahead of the debut achieved by Step Up 2 the Streets last Easter. That urban-inflected dance sequel benefited from brand loyalty but lacked an equivalent star, with Channing Tatum in just an extended cameo. From Good Friday to Easter Sunday 2008, it notched up ?.36m, and ?.11m over the four days. 17 Again's Efron enjoyed a much bigger opening (?.41m, including previews) last October with Disney's High School Musical 3: Senior Year, but a comparison with that tween phenomenon is hardly fair.
17 Again was beaten into third place by Monsters Vs Aliens, which rose slightly from its debut the previous weekend, and has now grossed ?2.43m after 11 days of release plus two days of previews. This compares with Bolt, which had achieved ?3.65m after its second weekend, although its complex preview platform was more extensive. Bolt released in the February half-term and had fewer holiday days to grab its cash; Monsters Vs Aliens should benefit from the current longer school break and has plenty more gas in the tank.
Facing off against the DreamWorks Animation hit, Race to Witch Mountain and especially Dragonball: Evolution struggled to engage families' attention. Disney's Race took ?81,000 in three days and ?84,000 over four. This compares with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's previous family comedy The Game Plan, which overcame the significant local handicap of a storyline involving American football to debut in March 2008 with ?67,000. Race may pick up more viewers as the school holiday nears its end and families start mopping up the weaker titles. Dragonball, which opened last Wednesday and has managed a weak ?36,000 in six days, does not look destined for box-office glory.
Top specialist release is Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In, which picked up ?03,000 in three days and ?70,000 over the four, from 68 screens, plus ?1,000 in previews. The critical favourite won a score of 98% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes ?appropriately so, since the film was awarded the website's Critical Consensus prize, voted by critics at last June's Edinburgh film festival. Comparisons are tricky, but arthouse chiller The Orphanage opened at Easter 2008 on 74 screens with ?20,000 in three days, and ?41,000 including Monday and some previews. That Spanish-language film benefited from producer Guillermo del Toro's name in the marketing. Another comparison might be Spanish horror [Rec], which debuted exactly a year ago with ?00,000 from 70 screens, including previews.
Given the Easter boost, the top 15 films were predictably up on the equivalent mid-April 2008 period, which did not coincide with Easter. But the surprise is by how much: a whopping 99%. A year ago, top new releases were blackjack drama 21 and period screwball comedy Leatherheads.