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‘Fast X’ Opening Meets Box-Office Expectations, but at What Cost?

“Fast X” (Universal) opened quite well by most standards, with $67.5 million in the U.S./Canada and $319 million worldwide. The extraordinarily long-running franchise that began in 2001 has survived cast changes (including the death of Paul Walker) and even the loss of director Justin Lin, who said he walked away from “Fast X” in favor of his mental health.

However, everyone’s prices have gone up in the last two decades, to say nothing of inflation. “Fast X” cost more than $300 million, marketing costs not included, and therein lie the problem.

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While “Fast X” met studio predictions, it’s not a terrific number. “F9” in 2021 did $70 million in its initial weekend, when theaters were still affected by Covid restrictions, audiences had not returned en masse, and tickets cost at least 10 percent less. Still, considering the age of the franchise, the U.S./Canada gross isn’t the greatest concern. Worldwide is where the worries lie.

“F9” had a more staggered opening date that makes total figure comparisons tricky, but China — always a stellar performer for this franchise — is way down. In China, “Fast X” grossed $78.3 million for five days; “F9” grossed $136 million in three days. “The Fate of the Furious” opened to $192 million.

Even so, the “Fast X” international gross of $251 million beats “Guardians” for the best for 2023. “Fate of the Furious,” the last “Fast” entry to open this wide, opened to $441 million internationally — and five years ago, tickets cost 13 percent less.

If “Fast X” holds as well as “Fate,” which delivered a 2.8 times multiple from its opening worldwide grosses, it could reach $900 million. That will only happen with strong word of mouth and that may not happen with its B+ Cinemascore. In its challenged period, “F9” got to $726 million.

Like Tom Cruise with the “Mission: Impossible” films or the Bond series, the “Fast” franchise always wants to top previous efforts and that means more money. After next weekend, we’ll know whether future releases at this level are financially feasible. In any case, “Fast X Part 2” is slated for 2025.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3, Will Poulter as Adam Warlock, 2023. ph: Jessica Miglio / © Marvel / © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

The weekend total was $122 million in U.S./Canada, with “Fast X” and “Guardians” representing $100 million of that. The Marvel title dropped 48 percent. That’s expected for the third weekend after a better-than-average hold last week (competition from “Fast X” clearly had an impact).

With over $266 million domestic in for “Guardians”, $325 million is likely. That would make it lowest among all Disney early-summer Marvel releases, even without adjusting for higher ticket prices. It’s a big improvement over “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” last February (it’s already $40 million better), but not close to the studio’s comfort zone. Worldwide, “Guardians” is $659 million, with somewhere close to $800 million possible. Again, that looks good until you consider the expense.

Neither film will challenge 2023’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal). After a 10-day delayed PVOD release, the Illumination Entertainment smash added another $9.8 million to reach $549 million domestic, with worldwide just under $1.25 billion. Neither “Fast X” nor “Guardians” looks to reach $1 billion. Will any other upcoming summer release top this? Not impossible, but not clear what that film might be.

“Mario,” with the marketing for the home release liking helping theaters, had the best hold and off only 22 percent. Everything else in theaters provided total grosses of $12 million. This is a recurrent issue that stands as a barrier to real recovery. Five of the top 10 films had per-theater grosses of under $1,000, with two just over.

Year to date maintains a 29 percent improvement over 2022; if that pace maintains, it means a $9.6 billion year. The rolling four-week comparison to 2019 fell to 62 percent. “The Little Mermaid” (Disney) opens this week, with a shot at $100 million for the three-day weekend (though likely lower). Last year saw “Top Gun: Maverick” open to $127 million, with all films grossing $177 million. Improving upon that might be tough.

The ongoing Cannes Film Festival is providing multiple acclaimed titles for the specialized market, but the bogus ovation barometer doesn’t translate into commercial response.

SANCTUARY, from top: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley, 2022. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Sanctuary”Courtesy Everett Collection

Leading this weekend among new specialized releases was Neon’s “Sanctuary” with Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott, which grossed $65,000 in five theaters. These grosses also benefit from advance showings and sometimes in-person appearances, which increasingly don’t translate into long-term success. Case in point: “Monica” (IFC), with Patricia Clarkson as a mother facing a tricky reunion with her daughter, expanded to 92 theaters this weekend for a mere $40,000.

The other approach is to start with a wider release. How does that work out? Too often, like “Master Gardener” (Magnolia). Paul Schrader’s film managed only $269,000 in 240 theaters. It will struggle to gross $1 million. His two most recent films (“First Reformed” and “Card Counter”) averaged around $3 million.

The Top 10

1. Fast X (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $300 million

$67,500,000 in 4,046 theaters; PTA (per theater allowance): $16,683; Cumulative: $67,500,000

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$31,980,000 (-48%) in 4,450 (no change) theaters; PTA: $7,187; Cumulative: $266,523,000

3. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend #2; also on PVOD

$9,800,000 (-22%) in 3,540 (-260) theaters; PTA: $2,768; Cumulative: $549,291,000

4. Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Last weekend #3

$3,000,000 (-55%) in 3,513 (+5) theaters; PTA: $854; Cumulative: $13,125,000

5. Evil Dead Rise (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 5; Last weekend #4; also on PVOD

$2,375,000 (-36%) in 2,173 (-648) theaters; PTA: $1,093; Cumulative: $64,106,000

6. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 9; Last weekend #7

$1,332,000 (-36%) in 1,312 (-401) theaters; PTA: $1,015; Cumulative: $185,314,000

7. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$1,326,000 (-47%) in 1,668 (-691) theaters; PTA: $795; Cumulative: $18,696,000

8. Hypnotic (Ketchup) Week 2; Last week #6

$825,000 (-66%) in 1,733 (-385) theaters; PTA: $476; Cumulative: $4,061,000

9. BlackBerry (IFC/Elevation) Week 2; Last weekend #11

$525,000 (-29%) in 595 (-28) theaters; PTA: $882; Cumulative: $1,743,000

10. Love Again (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #8

$400,000 (-72%) in 1,243 (-1,670) theaters; PTA: $322; Cumulative: $5,901,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

Master Gardener (Magnolia) NEW – Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Venice, New York 2022

$269,200 in 220 theaters; PTA: $1,224

Sanctuary (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$65,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $13,000

Moon Garden (Oscilloscope) NEW – Festivals include: Dances with Films 2022

$6,110 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,110

Monica (IFC) Week 2

$40,000 in 92 (+90) theaters; PTA: $430; Cumulative: $72,000

The Starling Girl (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$31,039 in 27 (+23) theaters; PTA: $1,150; Cumulative: $64,272

L’Immensita (Music Box) Week 2

$23,115 in 20 (+18) theaters; PTA: $1,156; Cumulative: $37,677

It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$110,485 128 (+29) in theaters; PTA: $863; Cumulative: $260,046

Knights of the Zodiac (Sony) Week 2

$160,000 in 588 (+2) theaters; PTA: $272; Cumulative: $920,000

Chevalier (Searchlight) Week 5 110

$46,000 in 90 (-20) theaters; Cumulative: $3,373,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside Attractions) Week 5

$43,775 in 46 (-16) theaters; Cumulative: $1,678,000

Wild Life (Picturehouse) Week 6

$11,942 in 23 (-9) theaters;  Cumulative: $313,201

Joyland (Oscilloscope) Week 7

$14,150 in 9 (-15) theaters; Cumulative: $230,366

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