The filmmakers behind the Fast and Furious franchise have done some crazy things. They have dropped cars out of an airplane, smashed an ambulance into a flying drone and drove a Lykan Hypersport through multiple skyscrapers — all of which took place in just one movie. But Universal, the studio behind the franchise, is attempting the riskiest stunt of all this weekend: The release of the first “Fast and Furious” spinoff.
Highly-anticipated spinoffs from popular franchises have sputtered out at the box office relative to the original films. Harry Potter’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Transformers’ “Bumblebee” and Star Wars’ “Solo” are examples of this. While they each made more than $300 million at the global box office, they represent the lowest-grossing films in their respective franchises.
Universal is hoping to buck the trend this weekend with the premiere of “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.” It opens in 4,200 theaters domestically and it could be the much-needed hit to cap off to a lukewarm summer movie season at the box office. The film, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham as the titular Hobbs and Shaw, is a big test for the action franchise to see if it can still find success away from its core storyline.
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business that spinoffs can be a challenging pitch to audiences since the films typically “exclude something integral to the parent franchise’s success.” Harry Potter, for example, is not featured in “Crimes of Grindelwald.” Among the big names absent from “Hobbs and Shaw” are Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker, both of whom were propelled to stardom after “The Fast and the Furious” came out in 2001.
“When you take a successful formula and experiment with it, there’s an inherent risk that it might not work as well as it did before,” Robbins said.
Luckily for Universal, the film has plenty working in its favor, starting with its two leading men.
“The film’s best insurance policy is Johnson and Statham,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore (SCOR), told CNN Business. “As arguably two of the most likable characters from the franchise, concerns over this film being a hit should be resoundingly mitigated.”
Johnson films have made roughly $10 billion at the worldwide box office, making him one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
Robbins said Johnson has proven to be “one of the more reliable draws in Hollywood lately,” and his star power took hold with his introduction in 2011’s “Fast Five,” which “many credit for helping to revive the entire series itself.” “Fast Five” was the first film in the franchise to make more than $500 million globally. The series hasn’t looked back since.
“Hobbs & Shaw” has been mostly well-received by critics, who praised Johnson and Statham’s on-screen chemistry and the film’s extravagant action sequences. The film has a 71% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes.
The film is also off to a solid start in the US, making $5.8 million on Thursday night. The studio is expecting a $60 million bow in North America this weekend. That would be the biggest opening this summer for a film that isn’t made by Disney or Marvel.
Where “Hobbs & Shaw” could really be a hit at the box office is overseas. The “Fast and Furious” franchise has become a global brand, bringing in stellar numbers outside of the states.
When “The Fast and the Furious,” the first film in the series, came out in 2001, 30% of its $207 million global gross was from foreign markets. Compare that to 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” which made 81% of its $1.2 billion global gross internationally.
“The worldwide market is integral to many of Hollywood’s biggest and most expensive films, ‘Fast and Furious’ being no exception to that,” Robbins said. “Like other blockbusters, its diverse cast and globe-trotting action have helped create fans in countries where the theatrical market is still growing.”