“Furious 7″ raced to the top of the domestic box office, picking up a massive $143.6 million in its opening weekend.
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That establishes a new high-water mark for the month of April, blowing past the $95 million debut of “Captain America:
The Winter Soldier,” and standing as the highest-grossing kickoff for any film in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. It also ranks ninth among the top 10 openings in history. Much as “The Dark Knight” turned into a memorial for Heath Ledger, audiences flocked to see star Paul Walker in one of his final roles. The actor died in a 2013 car crash at the age of 40, and his work on the film was completed using digital technology and a series of stand-ins.
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“This is a bittersweet installment in the franchise,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at “[Walker’s] passing made this movie more intriguing for people who hadn’t seen some of the installments. It raised awareness and its success is a tribute to him.” Universal Pictures spared no expense in bringing the latest chapter in the fast cars and gravity-defying-stunts series to the bigscreen, shelling out $190 million on the production.
It unspooled in 4,003 North American theaters, earning $14 million on 365 Imax screens and $11.5 million from premium large format screens.
Going into the weekend, most analysts estimated that the film would open in at about $115 million. Foreign numbers were steroidal. Internationally, the film rolled out across 10,500 screens in 63 territories, earning $240.4 million. “This is the next member of the billion-dollar club, and that’s a rarefied place to be,” said Contrino. “This thing is on fire.” With an A CinemaScore and strong reviews, “Furious 7″ could be one of the few modern blockbusters that hangs on for more than a few weeks.
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The month of April is lean on blockbuster fare, and “Furious 7″ won’t get serious competition until “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuts on May 1. The opening weekend crowd was impressively diverse, a testament to a series that has drawn strength from its multicultural cast. The audience was 51% male, 44% under age 25, 37% Hispanic, 25% Caucasian, 24% African-American and 10% Asian.