LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Fast And Furious 9 (F9) has the international box office sizzling.
The latest instalment in Universal's testosterone-fuelled franchise kicked off with a massive US$162.4 million (S$216 million) in eight markets, including China, South Korea and Hong Kong. Those ticket sales easily mark the best start for a Hollywood blockbuster since Covid-19 hit.
It is an encouraging start to summer movie season, particularly because revenues were not far off from what a Fast movie would have generated at the box office in non-pandemic times.
"Moviegoers are eager to come back to theatres when the right movie is out there," Universal's president of international distribution Veronika Kwan Vandenberg said.
"It's a great movie for the China market," she adds. "It has a strong fanbase."
Of last weekend's US$162 million bounty, US$135 million came from China alone. That ranks as the second-biggest launch for the series in the country following the eighth entry, 2017's The Fate Of The Furious (US$184 million).
In another notable milestone, it is the first Hollywood title in two years - since Disney's superhero epic Avengers: Endgame (2019) - to debut to more than US$100 million in China.
Elsewhere, F9 opened to US$9.9 million in South Korea, as well as US$6.2 million in the Middle East and US$2.4 million in Hong Kong.
With last weekend's ticket sales, the Fast franchise has pushed past US$6 billion globally.
F9 - directed by Justin Lin and starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and John Cena - is deploying a staggered roll-out across the world as the globe recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
The movie touches down in the United States on June 25 and will bow in 60 additional markets over the summer. It was initially scheduled to open in Singapore on May 26, but the opening has been postponed to June 24 in the wake of the new phase two (heightened alert) measures.
Unlike upcoming blockbuster hopefuls, such as Disney's Black Widow and the Warner Bros musical In The Heights, F9 will be offered only in cinemas - at least for its first few weekends of release.
It was much quieter at the box office in North America, where the gruesome horror film Spiral, action adventure Wrath Of Man and wilderness thriller Those Who Wished Me Dead presided over the competition.
Without any new nationwide releases, Spiral remained in first place with US$4.5 million from 2,991 screens in its second weekend of release. The movie, a creepy addition to the Saw franchise that stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, has generated US$15 million in the US to date.
In second, Wrath Of Man collected US$2.9 million from 3,007 theatres. After three weeks on the big screen, the Jason Statham-led vigilante flick has amassed US$18.8 million.
Ticket sales for Those Who Wish Me Dead, starring Angelina Jolie, dipped 35 per cent from its opening weekend. The film brought in US$1.8 million from 3,379 venues between Friday and Sunday, boosting its total haul to a bleak US$5.5 million.
The Warner Bros movie, like the studio's entire 2021 slate, is currently playing on HBO Max and will remain on the streaming service for 31 days in total.
Disney's Raya And The Last Dragon and the Warner Bros tentpole Godzilla Vs Kong rounded out the top five on North American box office charts.
The family friendly Raya And The Last Dragon pulled ever so slightly ahead of Godzilla Vs Kong with US$1.6 million in ticket sales, compared with US$1.4 million for the latter.
Raya And The Last Dragon, which initially debuted 12 weeks ago in theatres and on Disney Plus, has made US$48 million at the box office.
Meanwhile, Godzilla Vs Kong, which is still being offered on HBO Max, is just shy of the US$100 million mark, with ticket sales hovering at US$97 million.
In the US, the box office is expected to ramp up over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend as Paramount's nearly silent sequel A Quiet Place Part II and Disney's Cruella land in theatres.