The Fate of the Furious opens to record pre-sales in China
Hollywood is giving China and thousands of box offices around the world the eighth installment in the The Fast and Furious movies, opening The Fate of the Furious in more than 60 countries on Thursday.
The film secured a coveted day-and-date release in China and is expected to match the record-breaking Furious 7, which is still Hollywood's biggest release in China. According to deadline.com, pre-sale of tickets in China hit an all-time record of $43.5 million on Thursday.
Industry watchers expect the film may match the $390 million pulled in by Furious 7 in 2015, easily making it the highest-performing movie at the Chinese box office that year.
Each film in the franchise has made more money than the previous, with Furious 7 making $1.5 billion globally in 2015.
"Having a day-and-date release certainly does help - it could for example limit piracy and free downloading - but will also be a selling point in terms of seeing it when counterparts in North America see it instead of having to wait," said Stanley Rosen, political professor at the University of Southern California and an expert on the Chinese film industry.
"The key to the box office is the number of screens it plays on and the marketing budget. In both cases the film is well placed to be a monster hit," he said.
Marc Ganis, president of Jiaflix, a US company developing a new action-movie franchise with Chinese backers, said that the day-and-date release is a "major positive factor for Fate of the Furious, [and] the reviews and word of mouth have been excellent."
But both noted that the Chinese box office two years after Furious 7's release has seen a slowdown in growth. The 2016 box office performance fell 1 percent to $6.6 billion compared to the prior year. The Chinese movie industry had been used to breakneck growth, seeing double-digit growth every year for more than a decade.
Global box-office performance in 2016 was almost flat, mostly due to the slowdown in China, rising about a percentage point to $38.6 billion, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
"The Fate of the Furious could duplicate Furious 7's great success, but that's a high bar. Considering the slowdown in the film market, it may fall short," Rosen said.
Ganis said that since the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, China's box office numbers have "not been resounding. Good - in some cases very good - but not exceptional."
Furious 7 also had less competition at the box office when it came out in 2015, but Fate of the Furious is up against Scarlett Johansson's Ghost in the Shell, Warner Brother's Kong: Skull Island and Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
Ganis also said that Furious 7's popularity could be partially attributed to Paul Walker's popularity in China. Walker was best known for his role as Brian O'Conner in the Fast & Furious series. He was killed on Nov 30, 2013, when a sports car in which he was a passenger crashed and then burst into flames. Walker was 40.
The song commissioned for the movie's soundtrack as a tribute to Walker - See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth - was a commercial success and another contributing factor to the movie's popularity, Ganis said.
He predicted that the movie will make about $270 million to $300 million in China, factoring in the exchange rate difference, which would reduce the US dollar value compared to Furious 7's performance, he said.
The eighth installment, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez, brings a new roster of A-list celebrities, including Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron.
The movie focuses on how the cast of race-car-driving criminals react to a protagonist, played by Diesel, joining Theron's villain to betray them.