Universal Pictures also looks mighty brilliant for delaying the release of a movie that was supposed to come out in May 2020.
F9: The Fast Saga’s U.S. release will be a significant test for the post-pandemic box office, I told you at the end of May. It was precisely that, with theater operators and Universal Pictures looking like the big winners.
Beginning on Friday, June 25, F9 raked in an estimated $70 million at the U.S. box office. F9’s opening weekend box office in the United States marks Hollywood’s biggest opening weekend since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened in December.
The pandemic has everything to do with the amount of time that has passed since then. The theater industry was effectively shut down during most of 2020 due to social distancing and the need to avoid crowded indoor spaces.
The U.S. box office gross for Bad Boys for Life was just over $200 million. It opened in mid-January, giving it an edge over Sonic the Hedgehog, Birds of Prey, and the handful of other movies that hit theaters before most of the country closed in March.
The top five highest-grossing films of 2019 all made more than $400 million. Avengers: Endgame came close to $1 billion as the year’s full movie. Hollywood’s top release of the year earned less than $300 million last year.
F9 opened a bit lower than you’d expect for a Fast/Furious mainline movie. In 2017, The Fate of the Furious took in almost $100 million on its opening weekend. In 2015, the box office for (Hobbs & Shaw debuted in 2019 with only $60 million, but it is also a spinoff.)
Furious 7, released in 2015, fell just short of $150 million.
However, you can’t ignore the pandemic, and $70 million isn’t insignificant. F9 is crushing it. Boosting theaters was also necessary. Getting out for a movie (or whatever else) is bound to encourage more people to re-engage with life in public.
Make no mistake. This is huge for Universal as well. Remember: F9 was also affected by COVID in its way. Initially, the movie was scheduled to hit theaters on May 22, 2020. Universal put F9 in the vault and stored it for release after the pandemic, while other studios and Hollywood interests explored streaming and other options to release their 2020 movies.
While some of the biggest summer 2021 releases, including In the Heights, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise, will be streamed alongside their upcoming (or just-passed in the case of Heights) theatrical releases, F9 stands out as a singular instance. If you want to see it, you’ll need to go to the movies. It’s a massive blockbuster that you can’t stream online.
It’s not so much a loss for those other movies or the studios behind them as it is a victory for Universal Pictures. Disney and HBO have plenty of reason to use their upcoming blockbusters as a way to sell their respective, and still relatively new, streaming services. But Universal looks savvy here; F9 proves that its patience with holding back big releases may well pay off.