‘Fast’ Sequel Tops Weekend Movies Again, Speeds by Smiths

“Fast & Furious 6” was the top film at U.S. and Canadian theaters for a second weekend with $35.2 million in sales, topping “After Earth,” the new Will Smith- and-son movie from Sony Corp., which took in $27.5 million.

The Smith movie finished third, behind Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “Now You See Me,” which debuted in second place with $29.3 million, according to a statement yesterday from Hollywood.com Box-Office.

Universal Pictures’ “Fast & Furious 6,” the latest in a franchise inspired by illegal street-racing gangs, has thrived on the tried-and-tested formula of a multiethnic cast and intense action scenes. The first five movies have posted $2 billion in sales, garnering a global audience of teens and young adults.

“The diversity of the cast is a huge advantage,” said Phil Contrino, an analyst with Boxoffice.com. “These films have become global products in a way that doesn’t feel forced or tacked on.”

“Fast & Furious 6” receipts add to the $117 million the movie took in during last weekend’s U.S. Memorial holiday, which was a record debut for Comcast Corp.’s Universal and the second-biggest opening of the year. Alongside recent big Hollywood releases, such as “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Iron Man 3,” it has built momentum for Hollywood, which has begun the prime summer-movie season.

7th Installment

Starring Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, “Fast & Furious 6” has taken in $171 million since it opened on May 24. It was forecast to generate $38.2 million this past weekend, according to Boxoffice.com.

“Going into the weekend, we thought it would be a horse race with ‘After Earth,’” said Nikki Rocco, Universal Pictures president of distribution, in an interview.

The studio will release a seventh installment in July 2014, she said. The first movie in the series was released in 2001 without plans for so many sequels, Rocco said.

“We didn’t see it -- the crystal ball just doesn’t tell you,” she said.

The picture’s fortunes contrast with Sony’s bet on Will Smith and his son Jaden in “After Earth,” a grim, futuristic tale of survival after catastrophic events. Made for about $130 million, its debut falls short of previous Smith openings which carry a similar, serious tone, including “I Am Legend,” which opened with $77.2 million and “I, Robot,” with $52.2 million.

Bad Reviews

“After Earth,” forecast to take in about $36.4 million, was poorly reviewed ahead of its opening with 95 negative critiques out of the 109 compiled on Rottentomatoes.com.

“In regards to the U.S. performance, we’d hoped for more,” Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in an interview yesterday.

The company is confident the picture can recoup its cost, he said.

“I think that we’ll see as we look ahead, the tracking for us internationally is very strong,” Bruer said.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, it’s the second pairing of Smith and his son. The two co-starred in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” a drama that cost $55 million and took in $307.1 million worldwide. Jaden Smith also played the lead in “The Karate Kid” in 2010. The film, also from Sony, cost $40 million and had sales of $359.1 million worldwide.

Raise Cash

The results for “After Earth” may intensify the spotlight on Sony. It’s under pressure from billionaire investor Daniel Loeb to sell a portion of the entertainment unit in an initial public offering to improve the division’s performance and raise cash for Sony’s unprofitable electronics businesses.

“After Earth” may still make up some ground for Sony on its international release, Contrino said.

“You can’t compare ‘After Earth’ to ‘Men in Black’ or his established franchise movies,” Contrino said. “And I don’t want to write it off until after we see how it does worldwide.”

Second place’s “Now You See Me,” from Lions Gate, edged out “After Earth” by $1.8 million while playing in about 500 fewer theaters.

The story of how illusionists pull off a heist by outsmarting corrupt businessmen and the FBI stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman. It cost about $75 million to make, and was forecast by Boxoffice.com to take in $23 million.

Contrino called it one of the summer’s biggest upsets.

“A-list stars are not nearly as reliable at the box office as they once were,” he said.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 19 percent to $160.7 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Attendance is down 6 percent year to date, while revenue is 6.2 percent lower at $4.16 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box office figures provided by studios to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales from May 31-June 2.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 FAST & FURIOUS 6   $35.2    3,686   $9,540  -64   $171.0    2
 2 NOW YOU SEE ME      29.3    2,925   10,002   --     29.3    1
 3 AFTER EARTH         27.5    3,401    8,092   --     27.5    1
 4 STAR TREK           16.8    3,585    4,681  -55    181.5    3
 5 EPIC (3-D/ANIMATED) 16.6    3,894    4,267  -50     65.4    2
 6 THE HANGOVER        16.4    3,565    4,596  -61     88.5    2
 7 IRON MAN 3           8.4    2,895    2,916  -56    385.2    5
 8 THE GREAT GATSBY     6.5    2,635    2,473  -52    128.5    4
 9 YEH JAWAANI          1.6      161    9,743   --      1.6    1
10 MUD                  1.2      581    2,082  -38     16.8    6
11 THE CROODS           0.7      506    1,315  -45    180.6   11
12 FRANCES HA           0.5      132    4,019   -4      1.6    3
Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $160.7        $134.6       +19

Year-to-date Revenue
     2013          2012
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $4,159        $4,434      -6.2

Year-to-date Attendance:     -6.0%

Source: Hollywood.com Box-Office
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