Though “The Fate of the Furious” didn’t break the April domestic opening weekend record set by “Furious 7,” Universal Pictures has still rolled together a huge weekend with the latest installment in their hot rod franchise. With the “Fast & Furious” series wildly popular with international audiences, “Fate” is now sporting global estimates that could see it break the $528.9 million set by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015.
Even if it falls a little short of that record, Universal will still blow by another international box office record by a huge margin. Universal estimates that the film will make $432 million overseas this weekend. That’s 37 percent more than the $316 million made by “Jurassic World,” which had been the all-time record for overseas openers.
So what pushed “Fate of the Furious” to a half-billion worldwide in just one weekend? Here’s what we think:
1.) Strong Marketing
Since unveiling the first trailer for the film back in December, Universal has done a good job capitalizing on the worldwide popularity “F&F” had earned with “Furious 7.” The studio kicked off its marketing campaign in a huge way, holding a trailer launch event in Times Square with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, and Nathalie Emmanuel.
The trailer quickly became a viral sensation, setting a then-record for most YouTube views for a trailer in 24 hours with 139 million hits. Universal then launched a strong marketing campaign focused on the ridiculous action scenes fans have come to expect from the series, as well as the mystery of what could have possibly led Dominic Toretto to turn against the team he called his #family.
2.) Release date strategy
With family films dominating the box office since “Beauty and the Beast” came out last month and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hitting overseas markets starting April 25, Universal had a ten-day window in which “Fate of the Furious” would be the only blockbuster in theaters aimed for adult audiences. To that end, they released “Fate” in 63 markets worldwide this weekend to capitalize on the lack of competition, with Poland, Romania and Japan being the only major exceptions.
“Easter weekend is a date that has done quite well for us, especially for ‘Fast,’” said Duncan Clark, Universal’s President of International Distribution. “China was a little tricky for us because we released [‘Furious 7’] on a Sunday rather than a conventional Friday, but the buzz that we’ve built from the previous movies has really helped us there.”
The “F&F” franchise has sported an international flavor on the same level as the James Bond films ever since it transplanted itself in its third installment, “Tokyo Drift,” back in 2006. After rebranding itself as a globetrotting heist series with “Fast Five” in 2011, that overseas appeal has increased as the franchise has traveled to locales like Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi, and in this film, Havana. That has helped turn “F&F” into one of the most popular series for foreign audiences, with “Fate” now setting a record for the highest Chinese opening of any Hollywood film with $190 million.
3.) Diesel vs. The Rock
While Universal sold “Fate” as a big clash between Dominic Toretto and Luke Hobbs, word began to get around that the men who played them were having some tense relations of their own. In an Instagram post sent out after filming on “Fate” wrapped, Johnson voiced his frustration with an unidentified co-star on the film that TMZ later said was Diesel.
“When you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling – you’re right,” he wrote.
Diesel denied any antipathy towards Johnson, telling USA Today he’s “always rooting for Dwayne.” But last week, TheWrap’s Umberto Gonzalez reported that Diesel had killed a scene filmed with Johnson and Jason Statham without Diesel’s knowledge. The scene would have teased the two action stars’ characters, Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, working together in a possible spin-off series.
Whether or not Diesel and Johnson are truly on bad terms with each other, the reports of their on-set tension certainly helped give the conflict between Dom and Luke in “Fate” a sense of art imitating life, giving the film another selling point beyond the spectacle of seeing cars getting chased by a submarine.
4.) Diversity sells
The “F&F” franchise has demonstrated the power of a multicultural cast in a blockbuster, with stars like Diesel, Johnson, Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Ludacris proving to be a major draw for audiences while Sung Kang’s performance as Han has made the Korean drifter a legend among hardcore fans. The cast has also proven to be extremely popular on social media, which played a large role in the success of the trailer’s release back in December.
Put that together, and you have a cast with a Marvel-level of popularity that will be a big help for Universal as it steers the “Fast & Furious” franchise into the future.