FAST X, (aka FAST & FURIOUS 10), Jason Momoa, 2023.  ph: Peter Mountain /© Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

‘Fast X’ opening meets box office expectations, but at what cost?

“Fast X” (Universal) opened quite well by most standards, with $67.5 million in the US/Canada and $319 million worldwide. The extraordinarily long-running franchise that began in 2001 has survived cast changes (including the death of Paul Walker) and even the loss of director Justin Lin, who said he walked away from “Fast X” in favor of his sanity.

However, prices have all risen over the past couple of decades, not to mention inflation. “Fast X” cost more than $300 million, not including marketing costs, and therein lies the rub.

While “Fast X” met the studio’s predictions, it’s not a great number. “F9” in 2021 made $70 million in its opening weekend, when theaters were still affected by Covid restrictions, audiences hadn’t returned en masse, and tickets were at least 10% cheaper. However, considering the age of the franchise, the US/Canada gross isn’t the biggest concern. All over the world is where the worries lie.

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“F9” had a more staggered opening date that makes comparing total figures tricky, but China — always a stellar player for this franchise — is down. In China, “Fast X” grossed $78.3 million in five days; “F9” grossed $136 million in three days. ‘The Fate of the Furious’ opened to $192 million.

Even so, “Fast X”‘s international gross of $251 million beats out “Guardians” for the best for 2023. “Fate of the Furious,” the latest “Fast” entry to open that much, opened at $ 441 million internationally – and five years ago, tickets were 13% cheaper.

If “Fast X” holds up as well as “Fate,” which pulled in a 2.8x multiple of its worldwide opening gross, it could hit $900 million. This will only happen with strong word of mouth and may not happen with its B+ Cinemascore. In its rough period, “F9” made $726 million.

Like Tom Cruise with the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies or the Bond series, the ‘Fast’ franchise always wants to outdo previous efforts and that means more money. After next weekend, we will know if future releases at this level are financially viable. In any case, “Fast X Part 2” is scheduled for 2025.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.  3, Will Poulter as Adam Warlock, 2023. photo: Jessica Miglio / © Marvel / © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy of Everett Collection

The weekend total was $122 million in the United States and Canada, with “Fast X” and “Guardians” accounting for $100 million. Marvel stock is down 48%. This is expected for the third weekend after a better-than-average hold last week (competition from “Fast X” clearly having an impact).

With more than $266 million domestic for the “Guardians,” that’s likely a $325 million. That would make it the lowest of all of Disney’s early summer Marvel releases, even without adjusting for higher ticket prices. It’s a big improvement over “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” last February (it’s already $40 million more), but nowhere near the studio’s comfort zone. Worldwide, “Guardians” is $659 million, with a possible value close to $800 million. Again, sounds good until you consider the expense.

Neither film will challenge the 2023 film “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal). After a 10-day delayed PVOD release, the Illumination Entertainment blockbuster added another $9.8 million to hit $549 million domestic, with just under $1.25 billion worldwide. Neither “Fast X” nor “Guardians” appear to be hitting $1 billion. Will any other upcoming summer releases top this one? Not impossible, but it’s not clear what that movie could be.

“Mario,” with home release marketing appealing to theaters, had the best catch and only 22 percent. Everything Else in theaters provided a total gross of $12 million. This is a recurring problem that is an obstacle to true recovery. Five of the top 10 films had theatrical receipts under $1,000, with two just over.

Since the beginning of the year, it has maintained a 29% improvement compared to 2022; if that pace holds, that means a $9.6 billion year. The four-week rolling comparison to 2019 is down to 62%. “The Little Mermaid” (Disney) opens this week, shooting for $100 million for the three-day weekend (though probably lower). Last year, “Top Gun: Maverick” opened to $127 million, with all films grossing $177 million. Improving this could be difficult.

The ongoing Cannes Film Festival is supplying a number of acclaimed titles for the specialist market, but the false barometer of ovation is not translating into a commercial response.

SANCTUARY, from top: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley, 2022. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Sanctuary”Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Leading this weekend among specialty new releases was Neon’s “Sanctuary” starring Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott, which grossed $65,000 at five theaters. These takings also benefit from advance screenings and sometimes in-person appearances, which increasingly don’t translate into long-term success. Case in point: “Monica” (IFC), starring Patricia Clarkson as a mother who faces a difficult reunion with her daughter, expanded to 92 theaters this weekend for just $40,000.

The other approach is to start with a larger version. How does it work? Too often, like “Master Gardener” (Magnolia). Paul Schrader’s film grossed just $269,000 in 240 theaters. He’s going to struggle to make $1 million. His two most recent films (“First Reformed” and “Card Counter”) averaged about $3 million.

Top 10

1. Fast X (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: 300 million dollars

$67,500,000 in 4,046 theaters; PTA (for theater allowance): $16,683; Cumulative: $67,500,000

2. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$31,980,000 (-48%) in 4,450 theaters (no change); PTA: $7,187; Cumulative: $266,523,000

3. The Super Mario Bros Movie (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend No. 2; also on PVOD

$9,800,000 (-22%) in 3,540 (-260) theaters; PTA: $2,768; Cumulative: $549,291,000

4. Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Last weekend #3

$3,000,000 (-55%) in 3,513 (+5) theaters; PTA: $854; Cumulative: $13,125,000

5. Rise of the Evil Dead (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 5; Last weekend #4; also on PVOD

$2,375,000 (-36%) in 2,173 (-648) theaters; PTA: $1,093; Cumulative: $64,106,000

6. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 9; Last weekend #7

$1,332,000 (-36%) in 1,312 (-401) theaters; PTA: $1,015; Cumulative: $185,314,000

7. Are you there God? I’m Margaret (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$1,326,000 (-47%) in 1,668 (-691) theaters; PTA: $795; Cumulative: $18,696,000

8. Hypnotic (Ketchup) Week 2; Last week #6

$825,000 (-66%) in 1,733 (-385) theaters; PTA: $476; Cumulative: $4,061,000

9. Blackberries (IFC/Elevation) Week 2; Last weekend #11

$525,000 (-29%) in 595 (-28) theaters; PTA: $882; Cumulative: $1,743,000

10. Love again (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #8

$400,000 (-72%) in 1,243 (-1,670) theaters; PTA: $322; Cumulative: $5,901,000

Other specialized titles

Movies (limited, limited movie expansions, and award-oriented) are listed by week out, starting with those open this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grossing over $5,000 are listed.

Master Gardener (Magnolia) NEW – Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Venice, New York 2022

$269,200 in 220 theaters; PTA: $1,224

sanctuary (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$65,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $13,000

Garden of the Moon (Oscilloscope) NEW – Festivals include: Dances with Films 2022

$6,110 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,110

monica (IFC) Week 2

$40,000 in 92 (+90) theaters; PTA: $430; Cumulative: $72,000

The starling girl (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$31,039 in 27 (+23) theaters; PTA: $1,150; Cumulative: $64,272

The immensity (Music box) Week 2

$23,115 in 20 (+18) theaters; PTA: $1,156; Cumulative: $37,677

It’s not over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$110,485 128 (+29) in theaters; PTA: $863; Cumulative: $260,046

Knights of the Zodiac (Sony) Week 2

$160,000 in 588 (+2) theaters; PTA: $272; Cumulative: $920,000

Knight (Searchlight) Week 5 110

$46,000 in 90 (-20) theaters; Cumulative: $3,373,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside attractions) Week 5

$43,775 in 46 (-16) theaters; Cumulative: $1,678,000

Wild animals (Picturehouse) Week 6

$11,942 in 23 (-9) theaters; Cumulative: $313,201

Joyland (Oscilloscope) Week 7

$14,150 in 9 (-15) theaters; Cumulative: $230,366