Despite its immense production and marketing budget, Universal’s “Fast X” may be able to turn a profit after all. If it does, it will have the enduring international appeal of the “Fast & Furious” franchise to thank for that.
In the U.S., “Fast & Furious” is continuing its decline from a mid-2010s peak with a $67 million opening for “Fast X,” a launch below the $70 million that the tentpole’s predecessor “F9” earned during the early stages of the box office’s COVID recovery in June 2021.
But overseas grosses were a different story, with a $251.5 million total from 84 markets, including $78 million from China. That such a result would be seen as a positive despite being 42.5% down from the $136 million Chinese opening of “F9” shows how far Hollywood’s fortunes in that country have fallen. Yet “Fast X” nonetheless has the best Chinese opening of any Hollywood film so far this year.
Outside of China, Universal reports that the overseas performance of “Fast X” is 79% ahead of “F9,” 38% ahead of the 2019 spin-off “Hobbs & Shaw,” and just 12% behind the $1 billion-plus 2017 entry “The Fate of the Furious.”
With a $340 million budget before marketing costs, there’s still a very long road to profitability for “Fast X.” But this weekend’s $318.5 million global opening followed the path the film needed as it took advantage of vastly improved theatrical markets to outperform “F9” in several key countries.
A look at some of the top international markets shows the improvement. The opening weekend in Mexico went from $10.9 million for “F9” to $16.6 million for “Fast X,” joining “Furious 7” and “Fate of the Furious” among Universal’s five highest openings ever in that country. India surged from a $1.6 million opening for “F9” to a studio-record $8.6 million for “Fast X,” while Brazil did the same with a $9.9 million opening that was more than triple the opening for “F9.”
“I think the goal for this movie is get to $500 million internationally. That’s what any tentpole that relies on overseas needs to make,” said Boxoffice editor Daniel Loria. “I think the big question is how long a theatrical window Universal gives ‘Fast X,’ because the moment a pristine digital copy is released on-demand, it’s going to be pirated and take a bite out of the international legs.”
The next step for “Fast X” is to keep that momentum heading into its second weekend, where it may have a good chance at holding well in the U.S. with the Memorial Day holiday. Reception in the U.S. has been good but not exceptional with a B on CinemaScore and audience scores of 82% on PostTrak and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. In China, the film has a Maoyan score of 8.9/10, an improvement from the 7.8 of “F9.”
Along with the excellent opening weekends, films like “Furious 7” and “Fate of the Furious” also had incredible legs in markets around the world. If “Fast X” has similar endurance despite upcoming competition from “The Little Mermaid” and “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” it has a chance of earning a final theatrical run similar to the $760 million run of “Hobbs & Shaw.”
That would still be short of profitability given the film’s budget, but would give “Fast X” a chance to turn a profit once on-demand and other post-theatrical revenue comes in, though Loria predicts a smaller final global total of $650 million-$700 million.
Turning a profit after a theatrical run isn’t exactly the highest level of tentpole blockbuster success. But the good news Universal can take is that with the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, “Fast & Furious” still has some considerable drawing power worldwide.
That means that the franchise’s supposed final installments could turn a theatrical profit if Universal can avoid letting the budget for future films inflate the way it did for “Fast X” with extra COVID protocol expenses, supply chain issues and a costly cast. How exactly Universal will bring “Fast & Furious” to an end is unclear, as it was previously announced that one more film in the series would be made, though Vin Diesel claimed at the film’s premiere in Rome that two more films in the series were coming.
Universal hasn’t confirmed the plan for Dominic Toretto’s final chapter, but given that a “Fast & Furious” finale would likely get a box office bump from audiences curious to see how the two-decade-long series ends, there may still be some fuel in Universal’s longest-running tentpole series, provided that it conserves fuel properly.
“Anybody would kill for numbers like ‘Fast X,'” said Loria. “It’s just that when you add in the context of the budget and past installments that it doesn’t look as good. ‘Fast & Furious’ is like a 38-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s still knocking in 30 goals a year, who are you going to put in that’s better? What live-action franchise does Universal have that can consistently make this much money?”