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September 27, 2017

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'Fast and the Furious' on road to record debut

LOS ANGELES -- The eighth installment in the "Fast and the Furious" is on the path to becoming the biggest worldwide debut of all time, besting both "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Jurassic World."

Universal Pictures on Sunday estimated that "The Fate of the Furious" would earn a record US$532.5 million worldwide over the holiday weekend, thanks to a particularly robust showing in 63 territories, including China.

If the figures hold, it will just inch past the previous record holder, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" which launched to US$529 million in December of 2015 without China.

The film broke the record for biggest international weekend ever, with US$432.3 million. The previous record holder was "Jurassic World" with US$316.7 million.

"There is no market that hasn't had a strong reception," said Duncan Clark, Universal's president of international distribution. "Whatever culture, whatever language, whatever country, we seem to have found a home."

The China opening alone brought in a record US$190 million followed by US$17.8 million from Mexico and US$17 million from the U.K. and Ireland.

An estimated US$100.2 million of the global total comes from 4,310 North American theaters — a second best for the franchise and enough to easily top the domestic charts, but well below the US$147.2 million opening of "Furious 7" in 2015.

"Furious 7" had a groundswell of additional interest due to the death of actor Paul Walker, who played cop turned street racer Brian O'Conner, a lead character in six of the films. He died in a car crash while the film was still in production.

For the studio, "Fast 8" stands on its own as being "an extraordinary result."

"Each one of these films has its own momentum," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "There are factors from one film to the next that make them unique and certainly there were unique factors with 'Furious 7.'"

"The Fate of the Furious" has many of the returning stars like Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese and Ludacris, but has added some new elements behind the camera in director F. Gary Gray and in front of the camera with Charlize Theron.

The US$100.2 million is slightly below analyst expectations for the film. Audiences were 58 percent male, 50 percent under the age of 25 and diverse (41 percent were Caucasian, 26 percent Hispanic and 19 percent African American).

The studio has not released an official production budget, but it is reported to be in the pricey US$250 million range. However, an A Cinema Score from exit polls suggest that it will have sufficient staying power.

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