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'F9' to propel US box office to biggest weekend since pandemic hit

'F9', the latest installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, is drawing audiences back into theatres at a pace not seen since early 2020

Vin Diesel and (right) John Cena in 'F9'. Image via AP
Vin Diesel and (right) John Cena in 'F9'. Image via AP

F9, the latest installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, is expected to turbocharge the domestic box office this weekend, drawing audiences back into theaters at a pace not seen since early 2020.

The feature from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures may generate $67 million in ticket sales, walloping the current largest film debut during pandemic times, according to Boxoffice Pro. The result would amount to a roughly average opening weekend for a movie in the Fast & Furious series, but will likely still thrill theater owners and studios, which have been starved of new big-budget films for 15 months.

Also read: Jason Statham's 'Wrath of Man' debuts at No. 1

The movie industry is hoping the popcorn flick kicks off a broader return to the cinema. By luring audiences in with dazzling car chases, they’re hoping to show that theaters are safe and desirable places to be. If the weekend goes well, it could boost prospects for other potential blockbusters due to premiere in the coming weeks, such as Walt Disney Co.’s Black Widow.

“While it’s too soon to draw conclusions, Universal’s F9 may provide a shot in the arm,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Geetha Ranganathan and Kevin Near said in a report. It “should be a catalyst not only for the film but for the theater industry as a whole.”

F9 continues the saga of Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, and his crew of car enthusiasts. It has only mildly positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling its over-the-top stunts preposterous, but it’s still expected to draw a large crowd. Unlike almost every movie that’s come out during the pandemic, it will be available exclusively in theaters, and the action sequences are purpose-built for the big screen.

Further, about 80% of cinemas have now reopened, with rules around masks and social distancing continuing to ease, according to data from researcher Comscore Inc. F9 will show in 4,179 North American locations, the largest footprint of any movie that’s come out since March 2020.

Already the movie has proved popular with audiences abroad. It premiered outside the U.S. in May, and has sold about $300 million worth of tickets. And in the U.S., it generated $7.1 million in sales during a Thursday preview night, already setting it on a course to be the biggest box office winner in more than a year.

Also read: 'A Quiet Place II', 'Cruella' fuel biggest weekend of covid era

A Quiet Place Part II, a Paramount Pictures film that came out in May, is expected to take the No. 2 spot this weekend, making about $6.6 million, according to Boxoffice Pro. It currently holds the title as the largest movie opening in the pandemic, generating $48 million on its first three days in domestic cinemas.

Overall, the 10 biggest films this weekend could roughly double the box-office take of last week’s top 10, which generated $44.1 million in ticket sales, Boxoffice Pro said.

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