Before we get started and as mentioned last week, this week’s column celebrates the 12th Anniversary of The Weekend Warrior at ComingSoon.net, so I just want to give a great big thanks to the greatest (and most patient) editor and friend a guy can have in Mirko Parlevliet. Thanks for everything! Also thanks to everyone who took part in last week’s survey, which I’ve been going over to try and decide on what we can do with the column over the coming months.
Not only does this weekend offer one of the first guranteed blockbusters of the year, but it’s also one that’s looking to regain the April opening record the franchise previously set with earlier installments before the record was stolen by Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier last year (see below). (The Weinstein Company’s drama Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, was originally meant to be released wide on Wednesday, but it is now getting a more limited roll-out.)
The seventh installment of the franchise that’s produced six movies that cumulatively have grossed nearly a billion domestically and over $2 billion worldwide reunites most of the surviving cast of the previous two hit movies, an ensemble that’s gotten even more popular with each new movie.
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker became huge stars thanks to the first The Fast and the Furious when it opened in 2001 with $40 million, grossing $144 million domestically, but after Diesel opted out of the next two sequels, they didn’t fare nearly as well. Both Diesel and Walker returned for 2009’s Fast & Furious (which opened in early April, normally a month saved for dogs) and grossed $155 million after a $71 million opening. Its sequel, Fast Five, added Dwayne Johnson and others into the mix and it opened even bigger with $86 million, crossing the $200 million benchmark. With the next movie, Universal finally moved the franchise back into the summer with a Memorial Day opening that fared even better.
Opening over the Easter weekend could be a real boon for the movie that’s already set two April opening records with the fourth and fifth movies, although neither of them opened on Easter weekend. There’s no school on Friday anywhere in the country, which means that the $38.3 million opening of Fast & Furious 6 is certainly attainable, although it will likely be even more frontloaded as Easter Sunday tends to drop with many people returning to school and work on Monday.
Tragically, one of the films’ long-time stars Paul Walker (who starred in all but the third film, Tokyo Drift) died in a car crash in November 2013, forcing them to delay the movie’s release by nearly a year as new director James Wan figured out how to finish the movie. Unfortunately, there’s going to be morbid curiosity about seeing Walker’s last movie and how they handle it, which probably contributed to the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight after Heath Ledger died. Fortunately, the entire cast and filmmakers were sensitive to the tragedy that befell the production and they’ve paid a suitable tribute to the franchise’s star.
Early reviews have generally been favorable, especially towards the filmmakers’ touching tribute to the late Walker, which many of the fans of the actor and the franchise will want to see for themselves.
As might be expected, Furious 7 has no direct competition being the only new wide release this weekend and many of the March action movies already being on their way out of theaters.
Few franchises make it to their seventh installment and few have attained the comeback that this franchise did. For every person who loved the last few movies, there are probably a couple people who were disappointed considering how great Fast Five was. That might not affect Furious 7 too much, but you do have to wonder whether some of the fans might be getting tired of them using the same formula for so long. Furious 7 doesn’t even try to change it.
The movie isn’t going to offer much to interest women, because it’s basically all cars and scantily-clad models. Some of the cast like Walker and Tyrese probably have their share of female fans, as does Michelle Rodriguez, who has another great girlfight, but it’s still very much a male-driven franchise and not quite as four-quadrant as other movies.
Opening over the Memorial Day weekend gave a big boost to the previous chapter in the franchise, although Good Friday will generally have the same effect since most younger moviegoers will not be in school that day.
Prediction: This should easily top $100 million this weekend, but maybe not by much, because while it has Good Friday and other factors working in its favor, it also doesn’t have the four-day holiday that helped the previous installment join the $100 million club. Even so, it should be able to surpass the $238 million domestic gross of Fast & Furious 6, because it’s not having much competition in the weeks that follow with a good chance of having two to three weeks at #1. $250 million domestic should be attainable.
Interview with Director James Wan (Coming Soon!)
This Weekend Last Year
Marvel Studios released its ninth movie and fourth sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios/Disney), once again starring Chris Evans as the Star Spangled Avenger, joined by Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford and Sebastian Stan, and it set a new April opening record with $95 million in 3,938 theaters, or $24,130 per theater. $36.9 million of that was made its opening day (including Thursday previews) and it went on to gross $259.8 million, which made it the #1 movie of the year for about four months before Marvel opened their next movie Guardians of the Galaxy. The Top 10 grossed $155.8 million, which should be beatable this weekend if the returning movies hold up even with the juggernaut that is Furious 7.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
1. Furious 7 (Universal) – $114.3 million N/A (up 5.3 million)
Only one new wide release and it’s the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox), so don’t be too surprised if I take next week off!
This Week’s Must-Sees
Woman in Gold
Of Note: Opening in 250 theaters, this drama could end up breaking into the Top 10 with roughly $1 million since it’s strong counter-programming for older adults for Furious 7 as other movies (like The Second Best Exotic Marigold will be losing screens).
As skeptical as I’ve become about Holocaust films because they tend to be very similar in their approach, screenwriter Alexi Campbell and director Simon Curtis explore the plight of the Jews during World War II from a different angle, that of those trying to get restitution for what was done decades earlier. It’s a far more emotional version of George Clooney’s Monuments Men, and while at first it’s fairly obvious that Ryan Reynolds is no match for Mirren in their scenes together, his lawyer character does start growing on you as the story progresses. The film essentially jumps back and forth between the past when Maria is a young girl and then slightly older as the Nazis invade, and present day as she and Randy try to convince the Austrian government to let go of their beloved Klimt painting, which has become the pride of the country. By the last half hour, you’re fully on board with the story and what might happen, because Curtis does such a commendable job keeping things interesting with a score by Martin Phipps and Hans Zimmer that does wonders at pulling the most emotion possible out of every scene.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Lambert & Stamp
A little long and talkie, but Cooper does a decent job telling the story of the unsung heroes behind The Who, although the movie definitely peaks after an hour when it starts covering “Tommy,” which is still considered the band’s high point. And again, the fact that there’s so much ground to cover even after Amazing Journey, and so much footage that could only come from the band’s managers makes this a great follow-up. Rating: 8 out of 10
The Salt of the Earth
Of Note: After playing a number of film festivals and being nominated for an Oscar as a doc, it opens in New York and L.A.
Interview with Matt Shankman (Coming Soon!)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
5 to 7
This seems like such a Tribeca Film Festival movie, because they tend to gravitate towards romantic films set in New York City, but this one doesn’t really offer much to the genre compared to the recent Sam and Amir, and as much as I’m still crushing on Berenice Marlohe after meeting her years ago, I just don’t buy Anton Yelchin as a romantic lead. I’m also kind of sick of seeing him coming so soon after Cymbeline (in which he was awful) and the upcoming Broken Horses (where he isn’t so bad). But this is such a cutesie romantic premise about strangers who meet and have an affair that’s so talkie that it was barely able to maintain my interest for very long.
That Guy Dick Miller
You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.
Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas