Analysis: Can ‘F9’ Jumpstart the Summer Blockbuster?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Universal Pictures June 25 finally releases the much-delayed F9: The Fast Saga on more than 4,000 move theater screens nationwide.

The ninth installment in the fast-car action franchise was, along with Disney’s Black Widow, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II and the 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die, perhaps the highest-profile Hollywood movie casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vin Diesel-led F9 was originally slated for release over the 2020 Memorial Day weekend. The movie, which reportedly generated $7.1 million in Thursday night preview shows, has already sold about $300 million ticket sales at the foreign box office. That’s due in large part to the franchise’s global popularity, especially in China, which helped send the previous nine movies’ total global gross past $6 billion ($1.69 billion in the U.S.).

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To say domestic ticket sales expectations for F9 are big is an understatement. With moviegoers sluggishly returning to the cineplex, optimistic opening weekend industry projections range from $60 million to $80 million — significantly higher than current pandemic champ Quiet Place 2 with $48 million.

“There’s certainly a pent-up demand for movies meant to be seen on the big screen right now, especially after going an entire summer without such content last year,” Shawn Robbins with Box Office Pro wrote in a post.

With the U.S. leading the world in vaccination rates, and 70% of people having had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in several states, optimism is high theaters offering full-seating capacity (with a mask) will see record numbers — as has been the case in China for select titles.

“A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, movie theater owners, 13 movie studios, and talented filmmakers got together to tell you ‘The Big Screen in Back'” John Fithian, CEO of trade group National Association of TheatreOwners, said in a statement. “With pandemic cases falling, vaccinations rising, movie theaters in all major markets opening to 100% capacity, and big, crowd-pleasing titles being released all summer long, we’re keeping our word — with the kick-off of Cinema Week [through June 27], The Big Screen is Back.”

Fandango in a June 24 news release said advance ticket sales for F9 are outpacing those for A Quiet Place Part II, Fandango’s biggest ticket-seller of the year so far. Fandango also surveyed more than 2,000 moviegoers planning to see F9 on the big screen and found that:

  • 98% can’t wait to see the outrageous stunts and action on the big screen.
  • 88% are fans of the diverse, inclusive cast of F9.
  • 83% are Vin Diesel fans.
  • 72% are excited to see the return of Han (Sung Kang).
  • 69% are excited to see the return of Mia (Jordana Brewster).

 

“It’s the action-packed summer blockbuster fans have been waiting for,” said Fandango managing editor Erik Davis. “Breathtaking, adrenaline-fueled set-pieces complement a fun, inclusive ensemble cast. Longtime fans will love all the references to the previous movies in ‘The Fast Saga,’ and newcomers will be blown away by the scope and spectacle. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to see on the biggest screen possible.”

Prior to the pandemic beginning in March 2020, Sony Pictures debuted Bad Boys for Life to an opening domestic box office of $62.5 million — an impressive tally for a franchise with less consumer pull than “Fast & Furious.”

“Any movie that opens with more than $40 million, that’s a good number [these days],” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNBC.

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