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‘Fate of the Furious’ Races Toward China Box Office Success

By April Ma
A still from the movie 'The Fate of the Furious.' The latest installment in the ‘The Fast and the Furious’ street racing franchise has set a premier weekend record of more than 1.2 billion yuan in China. Photo: IC
A still from the movie 'The Fate of the Furious.' The latest installment in the ‘The Fast and the Furious’ street racing franchise has set a premier weekend record of more than 1.2 billion yuan in China. Photo: IC

(Beijing)—The latest installment in a street-racing franchise, The Fate of the Furious is breaking box office records in China, and is turbocharged with hopes of becoming the most lucrative film this year.

Dominating silver screens in China, the seventh sequel to Universal Pictures’ block buster series The Fast and the Furious set a premier weekend record of more than 1.2 billion yuan ($174 million) between April 14 and April 16.

It is also now the highest-grossing film in China by daily earnings, reaping 460 million yuan Saturday, according to local box office tracker Maoyan.

There is every reason to expect that the fast-paced feature will finish on top in receipts this year, as typically total box office receipts end up little more than three times the amount earned during the first weekend of release, says ticketing analyst Nan Rumin.

If this applies, ticket revenues for the $250 million Universal production could likely exceed 30 billion yuan in China. This would bring it neck and neck with 2016 environmental fantasy The Mermaid, the largest box office winner to date in China, which pulled in 33 billion yuan. The Mermaid made 870 million yuan during its premier weekend.

The 1.7 billion yuan ($250 million) Chinese moviegoers’ embrace of The Fate of the Furious so far has been even more intense than in its home market of North America, where it has brought in $115 million. China now accounts for 45% of its gross earnings globally.

“The film cuts to the chase of crashing and burning, a full blast of testosterone, without intricate and drawn-out plots of romance,” says film critic Li Duoyu, who believes it satisfies a current craving for heavy-duty action. “It’s an escape and catharsis for Chinese people in the present stressful period of urbanization,” she says.

“In previous years, the appetite was for adapted films and the emphasis was on a good plot,” says film industry analyst Liu Yan, which is why The Mermaid and Monster Hunt were such a success. “Now people want quality eye candy, the fun and enjoyable stuff. They don’t want to leave cinemas heavy hearted.”

The Fate of the Furious continues a winning streak for the series in China, as Furious 7, the previous feature in the franchise, came second in 2015 with ticket earnings of 24 billion yuan. It was a near tie with Monster Hunt, which claimed the box office crown that year, though there were allegations of inflated figures.

Starring Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, The Fate of the Furious has also burned rubber in its speeding to reach the 1-billion yuan ticket receipt benchmark in three days. The Mermaid was the previous holder of the title, capping 1 billion yuan in four days of its release.

The success of the Hollywood blockbuster comes as the world’s second-largest film market begins to cool and moviegoers have begun to discriminate against slapdash productions. Last year, the nation’s box office grew a mere 3%, ending nearly a decade of double-digit growth.

The film may prove a significant boost for the market this year, which is again looking sluggish, with 14 billion yuan in the first quarter, a disheartening 1.7% slump from the same period last year.

Contact reporter April Ma (fangjingma@caixin.com)

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