Fast and Furious 9 aims to shake up American cinema

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Hollywood is finally stepping up the engines of summer blockbusters for the first time since Covid-19 slowed down the movie industry.

F9, the ninth installment in the popular Fast & Furious saga, hits theaters in America and Canada on Thursday night. The film is the first big-budget action show to be released exclusively in theaters this year.

Theater operators are hoping F9 will kick off domestic ticket sales to help them recover from extended shutdowns and restricted reopening with few new films to show.

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Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures has postponed the May 2020 release to give fans the chance to watch F9 safely on a big screen in a crowd, director Justin Lin said.

“When we make these movies, it’s about connection,” Lin said in an interview. “These are people who go to the movies with their friends and family, so they can hopefully clap together and laugh with strangers.”

The Fast saga began as a story of illegal street racing and has grown into the story of a tight-knit team involved in heists and espionage. It is one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises, raising over $ 5 billion worldwide since the first film in 2001.

f9 movie Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 9 movie poster. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

In the final chapter, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) lead quiet lives with a young son when asked to help foil a dangerous plot. The film features the car chases that rock the seats the franchise is famous for and heighten the drama when a rocket propels a car into space.

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Along the way, Dom has to “come to terms with all the deeds of the past to have hope for the future,” Lin said, a theme that can resonate with audiences weary of the pandemic.

“I can relate to that,” he said. “It’s something we all experience.

The film also brings back the beloved character Han (Sung Kang), who was killed in the third movie Fast, triggering an uproar from fans. John Cena joins the cast as villain and rapper Cardi B makes an appearance. Foreign ticket sales are approaching $ 300 million.

American and Canadian cinemas need a boost. Box office revenue fell 81% in 2020 from the previous year to $ 2.1 billion. Sales to date for 2021 are approximately $ 881 million.

F9 will be followed this summer by Marvel’s Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a Space Jam remake starring LeBron James, Snake Eyes, a GI Joe spin-off and the DC Comics film The Suicide Squad, among others.

But challenges lie ahead for independent operators and large chains, including AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, Regal de Cineworld Plc and Cinemark Holdings Inc.

About 20% of US theaters remain closed and some are still limiting their capacity. It is not known how many people feel safe sitting indoors around other people who may not have been vaccinated, or if some may be happy to watch streaming services at home.

“It depends on consumer sentiment,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOfficePro.com. “She really is the unknown.”

Jim Orr, president of national distribution for Universal, said he was optimistic about the prospects for F9 as restrictions continue to ease. At least two-thirds of theaters are open in all major US markets.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity before us to really ignite the domestic box office,” Orr said. “Everything is going in the right direction. “

Robbins predicts that F9 will make $ 50-70 million nationally in its opening weekend. That would exceed the May release of A Quiet Place Part II, which set a pandemic record with $ 47.5 million in its first three days.

This week, theaters are offering early screenings, discounts and other promotions as part of an industry-wide Cinema Week. Advertisements for new movies help spread the word that theaters are open.

In a trailer for F9, Diesel called on people to return to the places where “for 100 years we have all come together to be entertained.”

“Nobody makes a comeback like the movies,” he said.

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