‘F9’ Off to Fast Start in China, But Will Tepid Fan Reviews Hurt Global Box Office?

”Given the early stage of release, I don’t think Universal is concerned yet,“ Boxoffice editor Daniel Loria says, following a strong $135 million opening weekend in China

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Universal’s decision to release “F9” in China a month ahead of the U.S. has paid off big, as the “Fast & Furious” film has scored the biggest opening weekend for a Hollywood film since the start of the pandemic.

This weekend, the ninth “F&F” film — tenth if you include the 2019 spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” — opened to $135 million at the Chinese box office, with a global opening of $163 million with seven other markets, including Korea, also getting a release this weekend. It is the first Hollywood film since “Avengers: Endgame” two years ago to earn an opening weekend of more than $100 million in China.

But while this is a very encouraging sign for Hollywood that the box office is on its way back to recovery, the bad news is that “F9” was not as well received by audiences as past “Fast & Furious” installments. Currently, the film has a 7.9/10 rating on popular Chinese film site Maoyan. By comparison, “Hobbs & Shaw” had a Maoyan score of 8.7/10, and the four preceding “F&F” films had a score of 9 or higher.

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This could increase the chances that “F9” will have a sharp drop-off in weekend grosses in the coming weeks. As it stands, the film is still well on track to pass the $205 million earned in China by “Hobbs & Shaw,” a milestone that Universal will assuredly be happy with reaching. But in a market that has fully recovered from COVID-19 and seen record breaking Lunar New Year business early this year, “F9” will likely fall well short of the franchise-high $392 million earned by “The Fate of the Furious” in 2017.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster