You’ve gotta give the media credit for trying. Everywhere you look over the past week, the headlines have all blared positivity for F9, the latest in the mainline Fast and Furious franchise films. Yet fresh off of the debacle that was John Cena falling prostrate before the Chinese Communist Party, not all is pedal to the metal for this vehicular action flick.
In China, the film is over. And the falloff from F8 to F9 has been brutal. After opening just as strong as ever (showing this is not a pandemic issue), the movie had a screeching halt in viewership, which caused it to come up very short. The last Fast and Furious film saw a $392 million dollar pull in China, while F9 only grabbed $215 million. That’s a 45% drop in revenue.
Domestically, F8 (the prior film) opened to nearly $100 million dollars in box office revenue in 2017, and then kept that same momentum into its next weekend where it nearly doubled it’s intake. When all was said and done, the film had earned an impressive $225 million in the states. And it should be said that earning money in the states is the most lucrative market to pull from because around 70% of income from China stays in China.
However, F9 has started off its debut domestic weekend with $70 million, and picked up an additional $20 million this week. Industry insiders are already projecting that the film will drop between 50-70% in its follow-up weekend, which would mean we can expect it to generously add another $45 million. Ultimately, it’s unlikely to top $200 million domestically, and even $150 million would be very difficult.
So where does this leave F9?
One of the things that has been bothersome in reading the media pieces about the film industry has been their constant pattern of declaring every new movie “the greatest, bestest, biggest thing in the post-pandemic era!” The problem is that these numbers at some point have to go back to somewhere near normal or else you can’t afford to keep making blockbuster movies. Budgets have to be paid back. F9 cost an estimated $200-225 million to create. Considering 70% of the income from China never makes it to the studios, and considering the other markets keep about 50% of the income for theaters and taxes… F9 will likely need streaming and rentals to break even.
How F9 can possibly be a win for Universal, I don’t understand.
I get that it’s a good thing people are going to the movies again, but if you make a film with a budget as big (or bigger) than a film from 2015 (F7), and the 2021 film does less than half its revenue… there’s not a pandemic fairy that drops makeup money in bank accounts. Studios don’t get extra points just because the world’s been weird. At some point, some movie is going to have to do 2019-level revenues, or budgets are getting slashed. And all the streaming funny-math isn’t going to fix this.
So, let the film industry media spin this however they’d like. They need wins, and the industry employs them. But if we’re waiting for the movie that brings us back out of the pandemic revenue crater, we’re not finding it in F9. The movie that will drive audiences back to theaters is still out there somewhere, and Hollywood has yet to make it.
[Film Revenue Stats Sourced from The-Numbers]
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