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Box Office: 'Fast Five' races to front of pack, ignites summer ticket sales [Updated]

May 1, 2011 |  9:23 am

Fastfive Out of the starting gate, summer's first big-budget studio tent pole, "Fast Five," was able to ignite major ticket sales at the box office for the first time this year.

The fifth film in the high-speed car-racing series broke all sorts of records this weekend, grossing $83.6 million, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures. That marks the biggest opening weekend for any film this year by far, blowing away "Rio's" $39.2 debut last month. It's also the best opening of any film in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, whose fourth film brought in $71 million on its premiere in 2009.

The other two new films that opened in wide release this weekend failed to rev up impressive ticket sales. Few moviegoers bought tickets to "Prom," which grossed a weak $5 million. The animated sequel "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" also fared poorly, opening to far less than 2005's "Hoodwinked," with a soft $4.1-million take.

Fast-five-box-office Heading into the weekend, the major question in the movie industry was whether or not "Fast Five" would be able to buck this year's box-office trend, which has so far reflected a depressed marketplace. Even though pre-release audience surveys had indicated that the film could gross over $75 million on its first weekend in theaters,Universal cautiously estimated a $60-million opening. Now the movie has helped pushed the box office out of its slump, with ticket sales up 52% this weekend as compared with the same weekend last year.

"Fast Five's" strong debut is welcome news for Universal, which is banking on the continued success of one of its only franchises. The studio spent at least $170 million to produce the movie, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss the film's budget. A Universal spokeswoman said the actual cost was $125 million.

The studio made a number of changes to the "Fast" franchise with its latest film, namely switching its genre from a pure underground-racing movie to a heist film. The movie reunites stars from all four "Fast" movies, including Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, and introduces newcomer Dwayne Johnson. "Fast Five" also has a different international setting, taking place in Rio de Janeiro.

The movie attracted a slightly larger contingent of males -- 56% -- and as with the previous "Fast" films, it was especially popular with Latinos and African Americans. Those who saw the film loved it, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The movie also did well overseas. "Fast Five" opened in 14 foreign markets this weekend, collecting $45.3 million and bringing its international tally to $81.4 million. The film took the No. 1 spot in 10 countries, but performed best in Russia, where it collected $11.5 million, and Germany, where it made $10.2 million.

"Prom," the first film to be put into production by Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, did not resonate as strongly with audiences. The coming-of-age story featuring a cast of unknown young actors was aimed squarely at teenage girls. The movie succeeded in attracting young females -- 82% of the crowd were women, and 66% were under 18 -- but not in the numbers the studio had hoped. 

If there's any upside for Disney after a slow opening weekend, it's that the movie was inexpensive to produce -- it had a budget of about $8 million. And word of mouth on the film may not be terrible, as those who saw it gave it an average grade of B-plus.

Hoodwinked "Hoodwinked Too!" received that same audience-rating but was also only able to attract a specific demographic. An overwhelming 71% of the audience was under the age of 12.

After the film's poor opening weekend, it seems unlikely that "Hoodwinked Too!" will be able to replicate the success of its 2005 predecessor, "Hoodwinked!" which collected $110 million worldwide. The moderately budgeted movie, which was financed by Weinstein Co. along with animation company Kanbar Entertainment, was likely overshadowed this weekend by two other family films still in theaters, "Rio" and "Hop."

"Rio," which took the No. 1 spot at the box office over the last two weekends, continued to do well, adding $14.4 million to its total, which now stands at $103.6 million.

Ahead of its U.S. release next weekend, meanwhile, "Thor" has already found much success overseas. The film about a Norse god grossed a very good $83 million in 56 foreign markets this weekend, bringing its international total to $93 million. The movie did best in Britain and Ireland, where it collected $9 million, and in France, where it made $8.1 million.

In limited release, Warner Herzog's 3-D documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," opened in five theaters and grossed $127,500 for a solid per-theater average of $25,500.

[Updated at 9:56 a.m.: Also in limited release, "Dylan Dog: Dead of the Night," starring Brandon Routh, grossed a soft $884,625 in 875 theaters.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with foreign grosses where available, according to studio estimates and

1. "Fast Five" (Universal): Opened to $83.6 million. $45.3 million in 14 foreign markets. International total: $81.4 million.

2. "Rio" (20th Century Fox): $14.4 million in its third weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $103.6 million. $31.7 million in 67 foreign markets. International total: $263.1 million.

3. "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family" (Lionsgate): $10.1 million in its second weekend, down 60%. Domestic total: $41.1 million.

4. "Water for Elephants" (20th Century Fox): $9.1 million in its second weekend, down 46%. Domestic total: $32.3 million. $4.7 million in 23 foreign markets. International total: $8.2 million.

5. "Prom" (Disney): Opened to $5 million.

6. "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" (Weinstein Co./Kanbar): Opened to $4.1 million.

7. "Soul Surfer" (Sony/FilmDistrict): $3.3 million in its fourth weekend, down 39%. Domestic total: $33.8 million.

8. "Insidious" (FilmDistrict): $2.7 million in its fifth weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $48.3 million.

9. "Hop" (Universal/Relativity): $2.6 million in its fifth weekend, down 79%. Domestic total: $105.3 million. $5.7 million in 53 foreign markets. International total: $58.4 million.

10. "Source Code" (Summit/Vendome): $2.5 million in its fifth weekend, down 50%. Domestic total: $48.9 million.]


Review: 'Fast Five'

'Fast Five' races ahead of 'Thor' overseas

Universal soups up its 'Fast and Furious' franchise

-- Amy Kaufman

Upper photo: Dwayne Johnson, left, and Vin Diesel star in "Fast Five." Credit: Universal Pictures

Lower photo: Red Riding Hood is voiced by Hayden Panettiere in "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil." Credit: The Weinstein Co.