Overseas Box Office Again Fuels a ‘Fast & Furious’ Record Debut

April 17, 2017, 8:41 PM UTC
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Fate of the Furious raced out to an impressive start by setting a new global box office record in its opening weekend, despite North American ticket sales that were far from record-breaking.

The eighth installment in the Fast & Furious action movie franchise scored a massive, $533 million worldwide debut in its first weekend in theaters worldwide. That was such a grand premiere for Comcast-owned Universal’s car-centric blockbuster that it smashed the previous global box office record for a debut that Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($529 million) set in December 2015.

Considering that The Force Awakens went on to gross more than $2 billion globally, it’s safe to assume that The Fate of the Furious is far from finished with ticket sales. (Not to mention that the movie will be helped by the lack of box office competition until the May 5 release of Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.)

One of the numbers that stands out the most from The Fate of the Furious‘ opening weekend is the $100.2 million in domestic ticket sales, which represented less than 20% of the film’s total global haul. That’s an even smaller percentage than the domestic cut of Furious 7‘s global sales total. The previous franchise installment pulled in more than $1.5 billion in 2015, with nearly three-quarters of that total coming from the international box office.

In other words, The Fate of the Furious‘ global record opening may seem that much more impressive considering that the movie’s domestic debut finished far behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast February opening ($175 million) and it would not even crack the eight-highest North American premieres of 2016. Instead, the Fast & Furious franchise continues to reveal the massive importance of the international movie market, especially in countries like China, where it sold a record $190 million in tickets over the weekend.

That puts the film in position to possibly break the all-time Chinese box office record for a foreign release set by Furious 7 ($390 million) two years ago. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, The Fate of the Furious benefitted from being given far more screenings across China, where a rapid expansion in movie theaters in recent years has made it the world’s second-largest movie market after the U.S., than its predecessor. At some points over the weekend, the new film received nearly double the number of showings that Furious 7 had in 2015.

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Of course, it’s more than just a case of China being good for the Fast & Furious franchise. A major blockbuster like The Fate of the Furious could not have come at a better time for China, where the movie industry saw more than a decade of rapid growth slow considerably in 2016. With Chinese regulators gradually lightening restrictions on foreign releases in order to put the movie industry’s growth back on track, record-setting openings like that of The Fate of the Furious can go a long way toward ensuring that Hollywood’s relationship with China continues its mutually beneficial upward trajectory.