Universal's "Furious 7" crossed the finish line this weekend with a record $143 million opening at the domestic box office. Not only is a $143 million opening completely unheard of for April (easily zooming by last April's record $95 million by "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), but it's the biggest opening weekend so far this year.
The $85 million opening of 2015's prior record holder "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- a film also released by Universal, a division of NBCUniversal -- seems
miniscule in comparison.
"Furious 7" also becomes the top opening in "Fast" series history, surpassing the $97.3 million of 2013's "Fast & Furious 6." In international markets, it's also doing very well, earning an additional $240 million to date.
Launched in 2001, the "Fast and the Furious" series has transformed itself from a cult favorite Street racing saga to one of biggest brands in Hollywood. The first film in the series brought in $144 million overall -- a total the seventh film almost beat in one weekend.
The opening of "Furious 7" is impressive, but it's incredible how the series rebounded after the third film in the series, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo
Drift," only made $62 million .
One of the reasons that "Furious 7" stood out with audiences is that it was the last film to include one of the series stars, Paul Walker. Walker died in a 2013 car crash while the film was still in production.
"There is no question that this massive surge in sales can be largely attributed to the profound desire on the part of the fans to see Paul in his final performance," Dergarabedian added. "Furious 7" shouldn't get too comfortable as the lead box office car, however.
On May 1, Marvel will release "Avengers: Age of Ultron," one of the most anticipated films of 2015. With "Furious 7" and "Avengers" coming out of the gate, Hollywood could be setting up for a record- breaking summer box office.