Jun 28, 2021 - Technology

"F9" speeds past pandemic-era box office record

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"F9: The Fast Saga," the ninth installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, is estimated to have brought in over $70 million over the weekend — the highest weekend haul at the box office in North America since before the pandemic.

Why it matters: The "F9" weekend blowout is a huge sign of optimism for the struggling movie theater industry, which has been ravaged by pandemic-driven theater closures and the rise of streaming.

  • "Every movie release thus far in 2021 has provided empirical evidence as to the popularity, financial viability and future prospects for the cinema industry," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Axios.
  • Despite a few disappointments, like "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway," the first big animated movie of the season, and Lin Manuel Miranda's "In The Heights," the summer box office so far has fared alright.

Details: "F9" blew past estimates, and beat the previous pandemic record-holder, Paramount's "A Quiet Place Part II," which brought in nearly $50 million during its domestic open on Memorial Day weekend.

  • Its success makes it the biggest box office opening winner domestically since "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" debuted in theaters in December 2019.
  • The Universal Pictures film, which debuted internationally in mid-May, has already grossed per $400 million in box office sales worldwide.
  • Unlike other 2021 blockbusters, like Disney's "Cruella" and Warner Bros. "Godzilla vs. Kong," the title was released exclusively in movie theaters, helpig to boost its theatrical debut.

The big picture: With 80% of domestic movie theaters open, analysts seem confident that the box office is closer-than-expected to a healthy recovery.

  • "There are more tests to come with many high profile films set for release in the coming weeks and months, but thus far the results should be tremendously encouraging to fans of the big screen experience," Dergarabedian said.

Yes, but: The success of "F9" can't make up for the challenges the box office faces.

  • The rise of streaming is likely to force movie studios to continue experimenting with shortened theatrical windows.
  • A better-than-expected summer reopening won't bring the movie industry close to its typical year-long ticket sales numbers.
  • So far, the box office has brought in about $1 billion in ticket sales, compared to $2.1 billion last year and roughly $11 billion in a normal year in North America.

What's next: "The next few weeks are very important for the industry," Dergarabedian said.

  • Several upgoming films will test the summer box office’s resiliency. Disney's Marvel action film "Black Widow," and Warner Bros.' "Space Jam: A New Legacy," will debut in North America on July 8 and July 16, respectively.
  • "Fourth of July weekend will be arguably the first time that film from virtually every genre will be represented from blockbuster to musical to family and horror and with an extended weekend will give many film fans the opportunity to catch up on their moviegoing a week ahead of the debut of 'Black Widow,'"  Dergarabedian said.
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