What did it take to wake up the Rip Van Winkle box office, asleep for the past 20 or more weeks? Just some fast cars, faster women, a bank vault dragged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, more wasting of fuel than in the BP oil spill and two bald giants Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson kicking the crap out of each other. Fast Five, fifth in the Fast and the Furious series of car-crazy action thrillers, blasted into the stratosphere this weekend with $83.6 million at North American theaters, according to early studio estimates. “Summer starts Apr. 29,” read the ads from Universal Pictures, underlining that the blockbuster movie season was starting a week early this year. Hollywood dearly hopes Fast Five’s muscular opening means that the industry’s winter of discontent, with the box office down by nearly 20%, is vanishing in Diesel’s rear-view mirror.
Fast Five creamed the competition, siphoning off more than half of the money spent on movie tickets this weekend. It earned nearly six times the take of the No. 2 film, Rio ; and it left two kid-targeted comedies, Prom and Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, choking in their own pixie dust. Prom, which Disney hoped would jump-start a High School Musical-type franchise, earned only $5 million; and the 3-D cartoon Hoodwinked, yet another gloss on the Red Riding Hood fable, settled for $4.1 million. Over in the micro-world of indie films, the doc Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog’s visit to the site of the oldest known works of art, opened to a sterling $127,000 in five theaters. Its $25,400 per-screen average managed to beat Fast Five’s $22,950 though, we grant, the car movie was playing in 3,639 more venues than the cave movie. It was gargantuan apples vs. miniature oranges.
Next weekend, we’ll see if Marvel’s mystico-comix action film Thor can beat Fast Five’s $80-plus million opening or if it will lose its way in a cloud of Vin Diesel fumes.
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Fast Five, $83.6 million, first weekend
2. Rio, $14.4 million; $103.6 million, third week
3. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, $10.05 million; $41.1 million, second week
4. Water for Elephants, $9.1 million; $32.3 million, second week
5. Prom, $5 million, first weekend
6. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, $4.1 million, first weekend
7. Soul Surfer, $3.3 million; $33.8 million, fourth week
8. Insidious, $2.7 million; $48.3 million, fifth week
9. Hop, $2.58 million; $105.3 million, fifth week
10. Source Code, $2.53 million; $48.9 million, fifth week
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