Universal’s Furious 7 launched in North America Thursday night to a rousing $15.8 million, easily besting the $6.5 million start of blockbuster Fast and Furious 6.
To boot, it is the best showing in recent times for any film after The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, which took in $17 million Thursday night on its way to a $121.9 million debut last November. Furious 7 began rolling out at 7 p.m. in 3,069 locations.
Imax theaters generated $2.2 million, the third-best number for Thursday previews after The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3.
The final film featuring the late Paul Walker, Furious 7 is launching around the globe this weekend and could easily earn north of $250 million by the end of Easter Sunday, including a record-breaking April opening domestically. Overseas, it has already earned $16.9 million overseas after debuting in 12 markets Wednesday and previewing in an additional 22 territories.
Furious 7 is getting the widest release in Universal’s history. Domestically, it will be playing in 4,003 theaters by Good Friday. Internationally, it has booked more than 10,500 screens in 63 territories, although it won’t open in China, Japan and Russia until later.
The current record-holder for top April opening domestically is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which debuted to $95 million from 3,928 theaters last year.
Furious 7 is likewise poised to nab the biggest opening of 2015 to date. And if it beats the $121.9 million launch of Mockingjay — Part 1, it will mark the largest three-day opening since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158 million) in November 2013.
The movie enjoys massive awareness and interest, due to both the popularity of the street-racing series and Walker’s death. The last film, Fast & Furious 6, debuted to a franchise-best $117 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in 2012, including $97.4 million for the three days, on its way to grossing $788.7 million worldwide.
Universal intended to open Furious 7 on July 11, 2014, but production was halted in November 2013 when Walker died in a car crash during the Thanksgiving hiatus. After director James Wan, writer Chris Morgan and Universal pored over existing footage and tweaked the script, production resumed in April 2014.
CGI and voice effects were used in some scenes featuring Walker’s detective character, Brian O’Conner, with Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, used as stand-ins.
Furious 7 pits Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and crew (which includes Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson, among others, as well as Walker) against Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, out for revenge after the death of his brother. Dwayne Johnson also reprises his role as Hobbs.