“Fast & Furious” left the competition in the dust with a $72.5 million opening weekend, the best so far this year.
That topped last weekend’s $59.3 million debut for DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which slipped to second place with $33.5 million, raising its 10-day total to $105.7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Universal’s “Fast & Furious” also raced to a record for April debuts, easily passing the previous best of $42.2 million set in 2003 by “Anger Management.”
It was a blockbuster opening more customary to summer. But Hollywood has been extending its busy season more and more by placing summer-style flicks earlier in the year.
“It’s summer time in April,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers. “We’ve seen the summer season stretch from what used to be Memorial Day through Labor Day, then the first of May through Labor Day. Now maybe with ‘Fast & Furious,’ it’s going to be early April as the beginning of summer.”
The weekend’s other new wide release, Miramax’s 1980s nostalgia comedy “Adventureland,” debuted at No. 6 with $6 million. The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as summer workers at a second-rate theme park in the late ’80s.
The reunion paid off for distributor Universal, which also pulled in $30.1 million in 32 other countries where “Fast & Furious” was playing.
The original was a surprise hit, but the franchise was slowly running out of gas after the sequel “2 Fast 2 Furious,” which starred Walker. Part three, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” had a new cast and took in a solid but unremarkable $62.5 million over its entire run.
But “Tokyo Drift” ended with a cameo by Diesel, sparking interest in reviving the series with the “Fast & Furious” reunion.
“The marketing campaign let everyone know it’s not what you’ve seen before. It’s the original cast,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “For the audience, the first main reason to see the movie was the action, then the car racing, then Vin Diesel.”
“Fast & Furious” paced Hollywood to another huge weekend, with overall revenues at $160 million, up 68 percent from the same period last year.
For the year, domestic revenues are running at a record pace of $2.57 billion, up 14.5 percent from 2008’s, according to Media By Numbers. Factoring in 2009’s higher ticket prices, movie attendance is running 12.8 percent ahead of last year’s.
“The title of this movie perfectly describes the box office year of 2009. Fast and furious,” Dergarabedian said.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.