UK Box Office

Sequels greenlit … Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on an LA billboard for Fast & Furious 7. Photograph: Jix Jax/Splash News

Sequels greenlit … Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on an LA billboard for Fast & Furious 7. Photograph: Jix Jax/Splash News

Given Paul Walker’s untimely death in November 2013, during a break in the shooting of Fast & Furious 7, anticipation for the film was always going to be high. It was fair to assume that many fans who had come along for the ride with the franchise at some point in its 14-year life would be keen to see it to say adieu to Walker and his character Brian O’Conner. And with grosses building steadily with the fourth, fifth and sixth entries in the series, the box-office trajectory was decidedly upwards.

Thanks also to high tracking numbers, Universal had good reason to feel confident about the commercial prospects of Fast & Furious 7. Still, the numbers achieved are at the top end of anyone’s reasonable expectations: £12.77m over the weekend period, and £15.55m including Easter Monday. The previous biggest opening in the series was delivered by Fast & Furious 6, with £8.72m, so the latest film is 46% ahead of the pace set by its predecessor.

Fast & Furious 7 has already outgrossed the lifetime totals of the first four entries in the franchise. The fifth film maxed out at £18.5m, which Fast & Furious 7 will very soon overtake. Fast & Furious 6 delivered a big improvement – £25.3m lifetime – but the latest sequel is absolutely certain to crush that number.

Fast 7 has delivered a bigger weekend number than any 2014 release managed to do, beating titles such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (£12.65m, including previews) and The Inbetweeners 2 (£12.54m, including previews). However, the film falls short of matching this February’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which debuted with £13.55m. The year is not yet four months old, and already it has delivered two openings that are bigger than any debuts achieved in 2014. Both of these 2015 mega-hits come from Universal, which is enjoying a dream start to the year, and has some more pretty sure bets to come including Jurassic World, Minions and Ted 2.

Cinema owners have long lamented that too many studio blockbusters are crowded into the traditional summer season, which used to begin with Memorial Day weekend in late May but has been creeping steadily earlier over recent years. This year’s official blockbuster season kicks off in the UK on April 24 (and May 1 in US) with Avengers: Age of Ultron – but it’s hard to envisage many of the summer movies beating Fast & Furious 7. The film has three whole weeks in cinemas before it faces any blockbuster competition, a privilege that will also be enjoyed by Age of Ultron – that is, until the arrival of Mad Max: Fury Road on May 15.

The family market
While Fast & Furious 7’s 12A certificate means it played to families as well as adult pairs and groups over the Easter weekend, films with a specific family positioning also scored well. Disney’s Cinderella benefited hugely from the availability of kids on school holiday last week, adding £6.59m over the past seven days. DreamWorks Animation’s Home also performed well, adding £5.23m. Including Easter Monday takings, the films stand at a cumulative £11.16m and £15.13m respectively. SpongeBob is also doing nicely, and Big Hero 6, with a 115% rise in takings from the previous frame, narrowly missed re-entering the official Top 10 only because the title in ninth place (Blade Runner) had its tally boosted by significant previews.

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