LOS ANGELES – In February 2020, Universal Pictures used the Super Bowl to ignite a marketing match under “F9,” the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. With a little luck, the studio hoped, the film would hit theaters a few months later and gross more than $ 1 billion worldwide, just like its predecessor, The Fate of the Furious, did in 2017.
But the pandemic had other plans. Some competing studios hit their release schedule, but Universal shocked Hollywood in early March 2020 by delaying “F9” for a full year. “It was a very unpopular decision,” Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairwoman Donna Langley said in a recent telephone interview. “A lot of people really disagreed with me.”
It was a more than $ 350 million decision between production and marketing costs, and Ms. Langley, like everyone at this stage of the pandemic, operated in the dark. “It was really a belly call,” she said.
It looks more and more right: Over the weekend, “F9” hit cinemas in eight international markets, including China and South Korea, and sold tickets worth an estimated 162 million US dollars – a blockbuster result that signaled a recovery in the summer Hollywood, which was largely reduced to a streaming service provider during the pandemic. “F9” raised US $ 135 million in China alone, 33 percent more than originally for “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” in 2019. The most recent film, which in the first three days in China exceeded 100 million US -Dollars was Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019.
“F9,” directed by Justin Lin, will hit North American theaters on June 25, the longest delay ever between an overseas Hollywood debut and a domestic one. The reason: By releasing “F9” in China over the weekend, Universal was able to overcome the country’s usual summer cut-off from imported films, which will begin around July 1, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Cinemas in China are hired to show patriotic films with titles like “The Sacrifice” and “The Red Sun”.
When Hollywood was thinking about the best way to revive going to the cinema after theaters have returned to normal, there was a lot of talk about “the right movie at the right time.” It wasn’t Christopher Nolan’s cerebral “Tenant” released by Warner Bros. in September. An old-fashioned monster mashup, Godzilla vs. Kong, drew huge crowds last month, but the results were depressed because it was simultaneously available on HBO Max.
Could “F9” be the one? It is shown exclusively in cinemas and features action sequences specially designed for large screens. One of the cars in the film has an actual rocket engine on the roof.
“It feels like a big back-to-school celebration at the beginning of summer,” Ms. Langley said of the sequel. It shows Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto with a marble mouth in front of his younger brother Jakob (John Cena), an assassin who works with the malicious cipher (Charlize Theron). Michelle Rodriguez returns as the brooding Letty. Tyrese Gibson, Helen Mirren and Ludacris also star.