Universal's The Fate of the Furious doesn't open in China until Friday, the same day it gets released in North America and many other major markets around the world. But the much anticipated eighth installment in the car chase franchise is already revving its engines mightily.
The movie, directed F. Gary Gray and once again starring regulars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, has smashed China's all-time ticket presales record, data from Beijing-based box-office tracker Ent Group shows.
As of Tuesday, the film had earned $18.1 million (RMB 125 million) in advanced ticketing revenue, well beyond prior record-holder Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back, a local blockbuster produced by Stephen Chow, which notched RMB 101 million ($14.6 million at current exchange rates) in presales in January (the film went on to earn $240 million). Fast 8's presales kicked off April 2.
The film has also hit a new all-time high for advanced Imax sales in China, pulling in $2.4 million (RMB 16.5 million) so far, unseating prior record-holder Captain America: Civil War, which took approximately RMB 10 million ($1.4 million at current rates) in Imax presales last year, according to leading local movie site Mtime.
Expectations for the Fate of the Furious in China are running understandably high. Furious 7, the preceding film in the franchise, became a historic box-office success upon its release in the country in 2015. Directed by James Wan and the last in the series to co-star the late Paul Walker, the film set a still unbroken local opening-day record of $68.8 million. It went on to become the biggest imported title ever in the Chinese market, earning $390 million - almost $40 million more than the blockbuster pulled in from North America.
Whether the new film can scale those heights remains an open question. After expanding by an average of 35 percent each year for a decade, the Chinese box office has experienced a prolonged slump over the past 12 months. Total box office grew just 3.7 percent in 2016, and the last $200 million-plus Hollywood release was Legendary's Warcraft ($220.8 million) last July. The strong presales are an unequivocally good sign for Universal and its Beijing-based slate financing partner Perfect World Pictures, though.
Universal declined to comment directly on the advanced sales numbers, but a spokesperson in their Beijing office offered, "What we can say now is we are excited about all of the signs, and really look forward to seeing the performance in the market soon."
Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Kurt Russell are returning for Fast 8, while Charlize Theron joins the Furious family in a villain role and Scott Eastwood is also among the cast's new faces.