Outracing even the most optimistic projections, 'Fast Five' set a new record for the best April opening ever, zooming to the top of the box office chart with an estimated $83.6 million. Five installments in, the 'Fast' franchise is clearly far from running out of gas.
Before this weekend, the previous April record holder was 2009's 'Fast and Furious,' which launched with $71 million, marking the best debut of the four films in the series at that time. The fifth movie was expected to open in the same ballpark, but it seems fans clearly wanted to get a jump on a summer action movie season that doesn't officially begin until next weekend. (Also, this one took in extra cash from many bookings at IMAX venues; about 10 percent of the weekend total came from the ultra-large screens.) Besides being the biggest April opening weekend and biggest 'Fast' opening, 'Fast Five' also set a record for the the biggest single-day April opening, with an estimated $33.2 million earned Friday. And it's far and away the biggest opening weekend of 2011, though that record isn't likely to last through the summer.
'Fast Five' dethroned last week's champ, 'Rio,' which had been the top movie two weeks running. The cartoon dropped 45 percent, down to an estimated $14.4 million, enough to finish in second place and to cross the $100 million threshold in 17 days of release.
Also down one spot each are 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family' and 'Water for Elephants,' both still the widest releases catering to grown-up audiences. Perry movies tend to drop off steeply after the first weekend, as this one did, falling 60 percent to an estimated $10.1 million, landing at No. 3. Its ten-day total stands at $41.1. 'Water' slid 46 percent to an estimated $9.1 million, taking fourth place. In ten days, the circus romance has earned $32.3 million.
This weekend's other two new wide releases were disappointments. Disney's 'Prom,' going after the same young female demographic that made the 'High School Musical' series a success, had been expected to earn around $10 to $12 million. Instead, it made half that, debuting at No. 5 with an estimated $5 million. Apparently, all the teenage girls were either home watching the DVR'd royal wedding or out with their dates seeing 'Fast Five.'
'Hoowinked Too! Hood vs. Evil' also opened at about half its projected take. The first 'Hoodwinked' was a surprise hit that debuted with $12.4 million on about 2,400 screens in late 2005. The sequel was opening on about 100 more screens, but it was entering a crowded marketplace that still had two strong cartoons ('Rio' and 'Hop') in the top 10. Predictions were that the fairy-tale spoof would open and just under $9 million, but the actual take was an estimated $4.2 million, for a sixth-place debut. Seems five years between sequels is too long for kids' movies; any kid old enough to remember 'Hoodwinked' has probably outgrown the franchise and graduated to 'Prom' or 'Fast Five.'
The full top 10:
1. 'Fast Five,' $83.6 million (3,644 screens), new release
2. 'Rio,' $14.4 million (3,708), $103.6 million total
3. 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family,' $10.1 million (2,288), $41.1 million total
4. 'Water for Elephants,' $9.1 million (2,820), $32.3 million
5. 'Prom,' $5.0 million (2,730), new release
6. 'Hoowinked Too! Hood vs. Evil,' $4.2 million (2,505), new release
7. 'Soul Surfer,' $3.3 million (2,010), $33.8 million
8. 'Insidious,' $2.7 million (1,584), $48.3 million
9. 'Hop,' $2.6 million (3,176), $105.3 million
10. 'Source Code,' $2.5 million (1,645), $48.9 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.