With an estimated $120 million at the domestic box office, “Fast and Furious 6“ had the biggest opening weekend yet for a film in the Universal series, achieving the rare feat of a franchise that keeps getting more popular as it goes on. And the racing action-fest managed its record-setting Memorial Day weekend despite the opening of “Hangover III,” which targets the same young male audience. Sure, the third installment, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” stumbled a bit when the filmmakers seemed to drift from the core mission, switching up the original cast, but the films seemed to find their footing after that.
Every studio would like several more franchises with this kind of durability, but what’s the secret to its success? Here’s a few factors, some contributed by Variety readers.
1) Hispanic appeal: “Fast 6′s” boffo Memorial Day B.O. in the U.S. came from audience that was comprised of 32% Hispanics. Hispanics are typically the most enthusiastic moviegoers overall, buying about 25% of all movie tickets compared to representing about 17% of the population, and cast members like Michelle Rodriguez, Gina Carano and John Ortiz help the series look more like the U.S. itself than the typical Hollywood title.
2) No pretentions, just fun: “I think partly because it’s smart enough to wink at itself just enough, not quite self-parody but fun, while upping the ante,” @dloehr tweeted. “Well-made, unpretentious movies,” tweeted @RichardCasey.
3) Diesel-powered engine: The only acting awards Vin Diesel wins are from MTV, but it doesn’t matter: His fanbase is young and devoted. “2 Words. VIN DIESEL” tweeted @SpecialPhysX.
4) International muscle: “Fast 6″ was filmed in the U.K. and Spain’s Canary Islands — not to mention L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, while “Fast 5″ raced through Brazil. But exotic locales aren’t the only reason the films resonate worldwide — most of the world just loves a good pulse-racing action pic. “The production strikes the perfect balance between action and suspense,” said French website 20 Minutes. In every market in which it opened this weekend (U.K. bow was last weekend), “Fast 6″ opened at No. 1: The film’s top overseas territory, Russia, contributed $17.8 million. Mexico, Germany and France all grossed north of $10 million each in three days.
5) Simple spectacle: “The franchise embraced full lunacy. Cool cars, big stars, bigger action,” tweeted @BaySideCritic. But not all agreed that it’s the franchise’s smart take on classic car movies that works so well. “Mindless entertainment for a mindless generation that avoids deep thought and challenges like the plague,” opined @Apushtweets1776 on Twitter.