Entertainment & Arts

Furious 7 races to worldwide box office lead

Furious 7 Image copyright Universal
Image caption The film's cast includes (left - right) Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Ludacris

Action movie Furious 7 has taken $384 million (£257 million) at the global box office in its opening weekend.

Almost half of that figure - $143.6 million (£96 million) - was made at the US box office.

Globally, it is the fourth-highest opening of all time, beaten only by two Harry Potter films and The Avengers.

Interest in the film was at least partially tied to its late star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in before the film was completed in 2013.

Following the fatal accident, production on Furious 7 was suspended while the filmmakers decided whether or not to proceed.

The team ultimately decided to delay the release from its scheduled July 2014 date. Walker's scenes were completed using a mixture of computer animation and body doubles - including two of the star's younger brothers, Caleb and Cody.

Image copyright Universal
Image caption Paul Walker was attending a charity event in 2013 when the car he was travelling in crashed

"This is a bittersweet instalment in the franchise," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

"Walker's passing made this movie more intriguing for people who hadn't seen some of the instalments. It raised awareness and its success is a tribute to him."

Film company Universal said Walker's death "probably created some curiosity" amongst audiences but added: "It's not by any means the prime motivator to see the movie".

Sleeper hit

The adrenalin-fuelled franchise has gone from strength to strength since its low-key beginnings as a genre movie about street racing in Los Angeles.

The original - The Fast and the Furious, released in June 2001 - was a sleeper hit that spawned a few moderately successful sequels.

Image copyright Universal
Image caption The films have drastically increased in scope and budget since the series' B-movie origins

After the third film in the series, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, left cinemas with a franchise-worst box office of $158 million (£106 million), it seemed the series would be scrapped, or move to the straight-to-DVD market.

Instead, executives persuaded Vin Diesel, the star of the original film, to return and made Fast & Furious - a heist film set overseas.

Since then, the franchise has gone from strength to strength, with each movie outperforming the last.

Fast and the Furious - in figures
Title Year Budget Global box office
The Fast and the Furious 2001 $38 million $207,283,925
2 Fast 2 Furious 2003 $76 million $236,350,661
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift 2006 $85 million $158,468,292
Fast & Furious 2009 $85 million $363,164,265
Fast Five 2011 $125 million $626,137,675
Fast and Furious 6 2013 $160 million $788,679,850
Furious 7 2015 $190 million $384,023,000 (one-week figure)

"This franchise took the road less travelled and became a trailblazer," Jeff Bock, a box office analyst told Variety magazine.

"You don't have the highest-grossing film in a series come seven films into a franchise. That has a lot to do with the way they're continually upping the ante."

Universal spared no expense in rolling out the seventh film. The $190 million (£127 million) production opened in 4,003 US cinemas, and earned $14 million (£9.3 million) on 365 Imax screens.

Its global success was achieved without the help of the Chinese market, where the film will not debut until 12 April.

"This could be the first in the franchise to flirt with the billion dollar mark," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for box office company Rentrak.

Image copyright Universal
Image caption Furious 7 is also expected to top the UK box office when figures are revealed later this week
US and Canada box office
1) Furious 7 - $143.6 million (£96 million)
2) Home - $27.4 million (£18.4 million)
3) Get Hard - $12.9 million (£8.6 million)
4) Cinderella - $10.3 million (£6.9 million)
5) The Divergent Series: Insurgent - $10 million (£6.7 million)

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