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‘Furious 7’ Blows Doors Off Box Office With $67 Million First Day

High-octane sequel heads for $150 million opening that will leave records and analysts’ projections in the dust

“Furious 7” hit full throttle at the box office Friday, speeding to a $67.3 million first day that put it on course for a monster $150 million opening weekend.

It was the best first day in Universal Pictures history, and the high-octane action sequel was racing to a franchise-high three-day debut that would be the biggest of the year and best ever in the month of April.

Also left in the dust were analysts’ projections, which “Furious 7” was pacing to beat by a stunning $35 million, and the No. 2 movie “Home.” The DreamWorks Animation family film was No. 1 last weekend and took in a strong $11.3 million Friday. That put it on course for a $28 million second week, which would still leave it $120 million behind the leader.

Overseas, where it’s called “Fast and Furious 7,” the action sequel added $59 million Friday to lift its international total to $120 million. It posted the best opening day ever for Universal in 40 foreign markets, including the U.K., Australia and Germany.

Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and newcomer Jason Statham top the multi-ethnic ensemble cast of “Furious 7” and James Wan has taken over as director, but it was the presence of the late Paul Walker that kicked excitement into overdrive for fans. Studio marketers used “One Last Ride” as a catchphrase for the movie, and many of his fans sought to pay homage by turning out for the film.

Walker’s death along with his friend Roger Rodas in a fiery auto crash in November 2013 forced Universal to postpone the film’s rollout, originally set for last July, and the studio used CGI images and Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb to stand in for him

The social media-savvy cast spread the word relentlessly leading up to Friday, and college students and youngsters on Spring Break, turned out in force to fuel sellouts in many of the 4,004 theaters showing “Furious 7” across the nation. Many fans opted for giant screens and roughly 20 percent of Friday’s grosses came from 398 Premium Large Format screens and 445 IMAX theaters.

The massive first weekend all but assures that Universal and producers Neal Moritz, Michael Fottrell and Diesel will see a huge payoff from their big bet on “Furious 7.” It had the highest production budget of any film in the franchise at $190 million and marketing costs to support that.

The huge domestic and overseas openings also increases the likelihood that “Furious 7” will be the first movie of 2015 to top $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

The $86 million Presidents’ Day weekend debut of Universal’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which just crossed $400 million at the international box office, currently ranks as the best opening of the year. The top April opening weekend is the $95 million rung up last year by Disney and Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

But “Furious 7” will have put both of those in the rear-view mirror by Sunday.