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Credit: Universal Pictures

Box office: 'F9' burns rubber with latest pandemic record of $70 million in North America

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Jun 27, 2021, 1:19 PM EDT

After topping off its gas tanks with loads of cash at the international box office for the last month, Universal Pictures' F9 has finally peeled up to domestic screens across the country. The third-to-last chapter in the Fast & Furious saga is now the highest-grossing North American release since the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to extinguish the lucrative theatrical industry last spring. Around the same time, Universal decided to delay F9's rollout by an entire year (the first of several postponements).

The film is expected to close out its opening weekend with $70 million from over 4,100 sites. IMAX screenings, which are showing a special, 5-minute preview of next summer's Jurassic World: Dominion, are said to account for $5.5 million of that figure (another pandemic record in and of itself). 

Overall, F9's $70 million performance is the biggest opening weekend since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hit the big screen in December of 2019. It's also nearly $30 million more than the previous U.S. record set by A Quiet Place Part II, which grossed $48.3 million over Memorial Day weekend at the end of last month. It's proof that the domestic box office is only getting stronger and stronger with each major studio release. Combined with more than $330 million from international ticket sales, F9 now has a global haul of $404.8 million.

"This is a terrific result for a movie that literally waited for movie theaters to make their returnF9's perfectly-timed release in North America benefited from a 'theatrical first' strategy that amped up the FOMO factor and thus the box office results," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "This is a performance that even in the pre-pandemic era would have been solid for the film, given that the latter films in the Fast & Furious franchise have been generating most of their box office outside of North America, so this is a win-win for the studio, movie theaters, and fans!"

Within the context of the larger franchise, F9 has outstripped the debut weekend numbers for The Fast and the Furious ($40 million), 2 Fast 2 Furious ($50 million), Tokyo Drift ($23 million), and Hobbs & Shaw ($60 million). In fact, F9 is neck-and-neck with Fast & Furious — the entry that many consider to have restarted the F&F engine — which also brought in $70 million when it first opened in 2009.

Directed and co-written by Fast Saga vet Justin LinF9 picks up with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) living a quiet life of retirement with their young son, Brian. When Dom's long-lost brother, Jakob (John Cena), joins forces with Cipher (Charlize Theron) in a deadly quest for revenge, Dom is forced back into the world of espionage and sexy hot rods.

Luckily, Dom's extended family members — Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren) — have all got his back. 

But wait! There's more! A pair of characters we haven't seen in several years, Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and Han (Sung Kang), are also back for another helping of past-faced action. Mia hasn't been seen since the end of Furious 7, while Han was seemingly killed by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) at the end of Fast 6 (which revealed that Tokyo Drift took place after the events of Fast Five).

"The message of the film is that family is not just about blood ties and it's not just about what you're born into," Brewster recently explained to SYFY WIRE. "It's about what you make of your family and it is about loyalty and proving that you deserve to be a part of the family."

"I think what feels best is just the idea that people are returning to the theatrical experience,” Diesel said to Variety during a benefit event for Charlize Theron‘s Africa Outreach Project Saturday evening. “It feels good to say, ‘Cinema is back!’ ...  You can’t fault another studio for wanting to stream a movie, but the ones like Universal are bold enough to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to support the theatrical release.' I take my hat off to them."

“It’s amazing," added Theron. "Just thinking about the fact that they’re on their ninth movie, that’s pretty impressive. It’s a perfect movie to help us come back.”

Credit: Universal Pictures

Now in its fifth frame, A Quiet Place Part II took second place at the North American box office this weekend with an added $6.2 million. To date, John Krasinski's horror sequel has made $136 million domestically and $248 million worldwide. 

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway took the fourth slot with an additional $4.85 million, boosting its U.S. cache to $28.85 million. The follow-up surpassed $100 million globally thanks to an extra $6.3 million in sales abroad. Elsewhere, Warner Bros.' The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and DreamWorks' Spirited Untamed hit $24 million and $15.8 million, respectively. The Conjuring threequel's worldwide tally now stands at $160.6 million). Playing theatrically in markets overseas, Pixar's Luca swam toward $4.5 million this weekend for a current international cume of $11.6 million.

(Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, and SYFY WIRE are all owned by NBCUniversal)

Certain box office numbers via IMDb Pro