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Box office: Justin Lin's 'F9' puts pedal to the medal with international bow of $162.4 million

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May 23, 2021, 12:52 PM EDT

F9 — the ninth chapter in Universal Pictures' Fast & Furious series — hit the international race track this weekend with an impressive showing of $162.4 million. According to Variety, China accounted for most of that figure, making F9 the first movie since 2019's Avengers: Endgame to surpass $100 million at the Chinese box office.

The movie's $162.4 million debut abroad also helped push the Fast Saga's collective global haul past the $6 billion mark. The Fast Saga is one of the few franchises to pass this milestone with the fewest number of films. What's more: the film's knockout opening overseas provides a ray of hope for the beleaguered North American box office, which is all set to debut the summer blockbuster on Friday, June 25. Along with Paramount's A Quiet Place Part II and Disney's Cruella (both of which open next Friday, May 28), F9 will truly test a theatrical marketplace heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic of the last year-and-a-half. All three projects are going to set the stage for the July 9 opening of Marvel Studios' Black Widow.

Helmed and co-written by F&F veteran Justin Lin, F9 is the third-to-last chapter in the Fast Saga, which is set to conclude with a tenth chapter split into a pair of films. In the run-up to the ninth film's domestic release, Universal is hosting free screenings of the first eight installments. F9 cast member John Cena (who plays Dominic Toretto's revenge-driven brother, Jakob) is helping ramp up excitement with a weekly video series in which he spotlights a different hot rod featured in the new adventure.

"This is a killer debut for F9 and portends great things to come when the movie opens in North America in about a month," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "Traditionally the Fast & Furious films have earned the majority of their box office outside of North America, but F9 could be the film to bring back a bit more balance to the revenue splits as audiences, hungry for their action movie fix, will rush out to see the latest from Vin Diesel and his crew."

IMAX screenings accounted for $14 million of F9's international opening. This total marked the company's biggest opening for a Hollywood project since December 2019, as well as its second-biggest international opening for the month of May.

"Summer blockbuster season has arrived with the strong debut of F9, and it's clear there is healthy pent-up demand among global audiences as big, highly anticipated Hollywood movies return to theaters," IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement. "'Universal's bold strategy to launch the release of F9 in China and jump start the summer clearly paid off, and the early success of the film bodes well for the continued rebound of the global box office."

Now in its second weekend, Lionsgate's Saw reboot, Spiral, added an extra $4.5 million to its North American haul, which now stands at $15.8 million. While the horror flick starring Chris Rock remained in first place, its second frame saw a drop of more than $7 million. With an additional $2.67 million from sales aborad, the film now has a little over $22 million globally. With that said, the entire Saw film franchise has now passed $1 billion worldwide

“We congratulate our friends at Twisted Pictures and all of the filmmakers and stars who have been a part of the Saw legacy,” David Spitz, President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution at Lionsgate, said in a statement published by Variety. “Over the years, our partners have been innovative, creative, and open to new ideas as they have nurtured a micro-budget film into a billion-dollar-plus-grossing cultural phenomenon.”

"I guess I've learned never say never," director Darren Lynn Bousman admitted to SYFY WIRE when we broached the topic of a potential sequel."I said I would never come back after Saw IV and here we are talking two decades later. I had a great time this time around. It's kind of reinvigorated my love of the franchise. So, you know, if they asked me the answer is yes, I would."

Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon and Warner Bros.' Godzilla vs. Kong also secured slots in the Top 5 at the domestic box office with $1.6 million and $1.4 million, respectively. Raya's North American haul now stands at $48 million, while Godzilla vs. Kong is on the verge of hitting $100 million (globally, though, it's made over $430 million). On the global stage, another Warner Bros. release, Mortal Kombat, has nearly $80 million to its name.