“Furious 7” shatters the record for an April opening weekend at the box office

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It might not have been a particularly surprising occurrence, but it happened all the same. Over the weekend Furious 7 set the record for an opening weekend in April, earning an estimated $143.6 million at the box office (this also makes it the ninth best opening weekend of all time, just so you know). It takes the April record by a wide margin, as it’s the first April release to open to over $100 million, so that should give you some idea of just how unique this opening is. Previously, last year’s $95 million opening for Captain America: The Winter Solider had the record (and before it, two of the other titles in the Fast and Furious franchise had held the honor), but it now belongs to the latest installment in said Fast and Furious franchise. Now, let me try to break down just why it shattered the record like it did.

First off though, let me show you for comparison what the top ten opening weekends in April looked like before Furious 7 came along. That list looked like this:

1. Captain America: The Winter Solider – $95 million
2. Fast Five – $86 million
3. Fast and Furious – $70 million
4. Clash of the Titans – $61 million
5. Anger Management – $42 million
6. Scary Movie 4 – $40 million
7. Rio 2 – $39.3 million
8. Rio – $39.2 million
9. Hop – $37.5 million
10. Oblivion – $37 million

Now that you have the raw data, we can get into why Furious 7 made the money it did…

The biggest factor, of course, is that the franchise itself has been growing exponentially over the last few years. Ever since the franchise transitioned back to featuring its original stars after The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, it has taken off. With Fast and Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6, the series has seen numbers far beyond what it usually grosses. Just look above at how now three of the films in the seven film franchise are in the top five for all time April releases. Watching Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and their cohorts save the day has truly become event cinema for audiences.

Another factor that has to be discussed is the change in box office landscape. Early year releases make more and more money these days, which creates opportunity for a would be summer blockbuster to make a financial killing in the springtime. Even March has seen some huge openings, so April is basically now being inducted into the expanded summer movie season. That puts an event film such as this one at a distinct advantage. It can take in a ton of money with little to no competition. With Furious 7, it basically has big time cinema all to itself until May 1st when Avengers: Age of Ultron storms the box office and theater gates.

Finally, the death of Walker obviously looms as a factor here. Much like with the death of Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight, there’s a small extra bit of attention paid to the film, with a certain number of tickets being bought out of curiosity alone. The growing fan club for this franchise was always coming, in bigger and bigger numbers as I’ve discussed in a previous piece, but some non fans might check out Furious 7 because of Walker’s passing. It’s not enough to set these records, but a top ten opening all time is achieved with more than a single group arriving, so it definitely has at least a tiny impact.

Honestly, no one thing makes for a hit, so Furious 7 can attribute its astonishing opening weekend success to a number of things. It all comes together though to set box office records, as we saw over the weekend. The next test will be to see how it does on its second and third weekends, if the latest film in the franchise can avoid huge drop-offs in ticket sales. Regardless, an eight movie is clearly in the works and that one could be even bigger. This franchise has reached complete blockbuster status and it shows no signs of going anywhere but higher from here…

Stay tuned to see how Furious 7 continues to do at the box office!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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