‘Fast & Furious 6′ races to record debut for studio

Bloomberg

“Fast & Furious 6,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, was the top film at theaters in the U.S. and Canada in the first three days of the Memorial Day weekend, taking in $98.5 million, the biggest-ever debut for the studio.

The film, which also had the second-biggest opening this year, topped the Warner Bros. comedy “The Hangover Part III,” which had sales of $42.4 million, Hollywood.com said in a statement Sunday.

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second film in the J.J. Abrams reboot of the franchise, dropped to third place from first with $38 million in sales for Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures. Made for about $190 million, the sequel has taken in $156.8 million since it opened May 16, according to Hollywood.com.

The new installments of these popular franchises helped boost revenue for the top 12 films over the weekend 73 percent from the year-ago period, according to Hollywood.com.

For Universal, the success of “Fast & Furious 6″ bodes well for its ranking among U.S. studios, where it is third with $442.5 million in domestic revenue through May 23, according to Box Office Mojo. Walt Disney Co. is first with $655.8 million.

“It’s very rare for a sixth franchise, which is more than a decade old, to do so well,” said Gitesh Pandya, chief executive officer of Boxofficeguru.com. “It started out as a low-budget film, and over time has transformed itself into a James Bond for the youth.”

He also credited its success to the fact it appealed to an ethnically diverse audience as well as women, who made of up 49 percent of the audience.

“That’s very high for a macho-type movie,” he said.

In “Fast & Furious 6,” federal agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, reunites with a team of car-heist experts to battle an international crime organization. Regulars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker return in their roles as Hobbs’ unlikely allies.

The first five films in the series generated almost $1.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The sixth installment was expected to generate $107 million over the four-day holiday weekend, the estimate of Boxoffice.com, another researcher.

It has topped that number already, with $122.7 million in sales as of Sunday.

“The Hangover Part III” is billed as the last in the raunchy comedy series about the misadventures of three globe-trotting buddies played by Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper. In the new film, one of the trio is kidnapped and held hostage to force the other two to locate recurring bad guy Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong.

“The bad reviews reinforced the fact that the film wasn’t that funny,” Pandya said. Audiences were already disappointed from the previous series and had already “checked out,” he said.