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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2011

‘Fast Five’ races to furious start

ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Vin Diesel, left, and Dwayne Johnson are shown in a scene from "Fast Five." In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Vin Diesel, left, and Dwayne Johnson are shown in a scene from "Fast Five."
UNIVERSAL PICTURES Enlarge

LOS ANGELES — "Fast Five" has left the competition in the dust with an $83.6 million debut to grab the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Universal Pictures’ fifth movie in "The Fast and the Furious" franchise was by far this year’s biggest opening. Its take was more than double the previous best of $39.2 million for "Rio," the 20th Century Fox animated hit that slipped to No. 2 with $14.4 million.

The No. 1 movie the two previous weekends, "Rio" raised its total to $103.6 million.

"Fast Five" set a record for best April debut ever, speeding past the $71 million haul of its predecessor, "Fast&Furious," two years ago.

The movie reteams stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as outlaw driving aces and adds Dwayne Johnson as a federal agent on their tail. The action expands beyond the franchise’s traditional racing scene into a broad crime romp.

"Summer began April 29," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "This was all about the right decisions we made, from the concept to the task. How this was made, that it’s not just a car-racing movie, but making it into an action-heist movie. ... And the marketing that said, ‘This is not the same. This is new. You’re going to love this, and it’s going to open up a whole new world.’"

The movie gave Hollywood a huge head-start on the summer season, which begins with next weekend’s debut of the Paramount Pictures superhero saga "Thor."

Overall revenues totaled $155 million, up a whopping 52 percent from the same weekend last year, when "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was No. 1 with $32.9 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

It was the third-straight weekend that receipts climbed, lifting Hollywood out of a prolonged downturn that began last fall. Revenues for 2011 were running 20.5 percent behind last year’s just three weeks ago, but the rebound since then has left Hollywood’s business down just 14.2 percent compared with 2010.

"What a difference three weeks can make," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "We get so gloom-and-doom, and appropriately so, but look how quickly we’re turning this around. And we’re on the cusp of the biggest movie-going season of the year."

"Fast Five" added $81.4 million overseas to bring its worldwide total to $165 million. "Thor" already has opened in many international markets, pulling in $93 million overseas ahead of its U.S. release.

Domestically, the weekend’s other new wide releases tanked. Disney’s teen romance "Prom" debuted at No. 5 with only $5 million, while the Weinstein Co. animated sequel "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" opened at No. 6 with just $4.1 million.

Freestyle Releasing’s horror comedy "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night," featuring "Superman Returns" star Brandon Routh, debuted far outside the top-10 with a paltry $885,000.

"Dylan Dog" played in narrower release of 875 theaters, averaging $1,011 a cinema, compared with $1,832 in 2,730 theaters for "Prom" and $1,653 in 2,505 cinemas for "Hoodwinked Too."

"Fast Five" played in 3,644 theaters, averaging a mammoth $22,950 a cinema.

Ten percent, or $8.3 million, of domestic revenues for "Fast Five" came from huge-screen IMAX theaters.



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