"Fast & Furious 6" turned its showdown with "The Hangover Part III" into a blowout, and drove the Memorial Day weekend box office into the record books.
The latest entry in Universal's cars and criminals franchise is roaring to a $122 million four-day haul in its debut, and setting the pace for an overall box office that will top $300 million for the weekend. That easily beats the previous best Memorial Day holiday haul, which was the $276 million rung up in 2011, when "Hangover II" led the pack with $85 million.
"Fast & Furious 6" is proving a global hit, too. It opened No. 1 in 59 foreign markets and took in $158 million abroad this weekend, giving it a three-day global total of $275 million, the studio's best-ever worldwide opening.
"Fast & Furious 6" took in roughly $31 million in North America on Saturday, on the heels of its $38.1 million Friday, to leave its rivals in the dust. The muscle-car sequel dominated, averaging $8,605 on its 3,658 screens. Runner-up "The Hangover Part III" averaged $4,120 per screen in 3,555 theaters.
The finale in Warner Bros. raunchy R-rated comedy franchise laughed its way to $14.6 million Saturday, which left it on pace for a $51 million four-day haul and an overall total of $63 million since it opened Thursday. That's way off the $135 million earned by "The Hangover Part II" during the same stretch in 2011.
"Hangover Part III" begins in foreign campaign in earnest next weekend when it opens in moe than 50 overseas markets, but it's off to a good start. It debuted in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand this weekend, and took in $19.2 million, led by the U.K.'s $9.2 million.
Going in, the battle between "Fast & Furious 6" and ""Hangover Part III" was seen as a competition for the same demographic target -- young males. The hot car saga with the ethnically diverse cast took that, but also attracted plenty of women -- 49 percent of its audience -- and got a huge boost from Hispanic moviegoers, who made up 32 percent of the crowd.
"After 'Fast Five' performed so strongly, we knew we had something special going," said Universal's head of distribution Nikki Rocco, "but we didn't take anything for granted. To have a movie opening like this takes the studio, the filmmakers and everyone to come through, and we did."
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The huge debut means "Fast & Furious 6" should outstrip the previous highest-grossing entry in the franchise, "Fast Five," which took in $209 million domestically and a whopping $416 million overseas for a $626 million worldwide haul in 2011. Overall, the "Fast and Furious" franchise has brought in $1.6 billion globally.
"Fast and Furious 6" brings back Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson along with director Justin Lin, who has overseen four of the franchise's films. It also revives fan-favorite Michelle Rodriguez, who was killed off in an earlier segment.
The movie is set in London, and premiered there, an indicator of how the franchise has evolved from its 2001 origins as a street-racing potboiler set in the subculture of East L.A. into an action spectacle on a global scale.
The reviews were strong, particularly for an action film, with a 72 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes. And audiences were sold as well, giving it an "A" CinemaScore. "Hangover Part III" received a "B" from opening night crowds.
Paramount's "Star Trek Into Darkness," last week's No. 1 movie, was third after taking in $14.6 million Saturday. That translates to a $49 million four-day haul, and puts its overall total at $158 million after two weeks.
The week's other wide opener, Fox's animated family tale "Epic," surged to $13.3 million Saturday and should finish in fourth at around $44 million for the long weekend. Audiences gave the PG movie an "A" CinemaScore.
Disney's blockbuster "Iron Man 3" was next, after a $7.6 million Saturday that projects to a $25 million four-day total. That lifts the domestic total for Disney's Marvel superhero sequel past $367 million, and its worldwide haul to more than $1.14 billion. That moves it into No. 5 on the list of all-time highest-grossing movies worldwide, ahead of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."
"The Great Gatsby" was in sixth, after a $5.1 million Saturday that put the glitzy adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel on track for a $17.2 million four-day take. Last week it became the first of director Baz Luhrmann's movies to hit the $100 million mark at the box office, and its total now stands at $118 million for Warner Bros.