‘Fast Five’ on Pace for $80M; Biggest Opening in Universal History

UPDATE: Vin Diesel/Dwayne Johnson action film grossed an estimated $33.2M Friday; Rich Ross’ “Prom” takes in disappointing $1.8M and will miss tracking

Saturday update:

Not to echo a shrill, obnoxious "we told you so" entertainment-blog cliche … but we did call it (see below).

Universal's "Fast Five" grossed an estimated $33.2 million Friday, putting the $125 million Vin Diesel/Dwayne Johnson action film on pace to earn around $80 million this weekend.

It's the biggest opening in Universal history, exceeding "The Lost World: Jurasic Park's" $72.1 million.

And if "Fast Five" makes it to $80 million, it will double up on what was previously the year's best start, the $39.2 million made by "Rio."

In other box-office news, Disney's "Prom" — the first film greenlit by studio boss Rich Ross — got off to a disappointing start Friday, taking in just $1.8 million.

It won't meet tracking in the $8 million-$10 million range. But we're not talking about "Prince of Persia" here either — "Prom" cost less than $10 million to make.

Also enduring a disappointing Friday: Weinstein's CG 3D film, "Hoodwinked Too!" took in only $1.1 million and will also miss tracking by quite a bit.

Internationally, Paramount reported that "Thor" has grossed $17 million in two days opening in 20 markets. Having opened in Australia last week, the Marvel film has taken in $40 million abroad.

Friday update:

"Fast Five" is on the move.

The film that's expected to finally lead the box office out of the doldrums — at least, temporarily — produced Universal's best midnight grosses ever Friday morning, taking in an estimated $3.7 million at 1,104 locations.

That's more than double the $1.8 million in midnight cash yielded by "Fast and Furious 4" in 2009.

Thursday preview:

Fast cars? Check.

Hot dudes and babes? Check.

Packed with action? Check, check and check.

Universal's "Fast Five" has all the ingredients to easily become the year's biggest box-office hit, with pre-release estimates suggesting the film will gross $60 million-$70 million domestically this weekend.

In an ice-cold market in which the top opening has been only $39.2 million (for Fox's "Rio" two weeks ago), any start that comes close to that projection has to be considered as downright huge.

Also read: 'Fast Five" is Racing Towards 2011's Best Start — But Will It Save Ron Meyer's Job?

With Disney's first Rich Ross-greenlit film, the youth-targeted "Prom," and Weinstein's kiddie-aimed "Hoodwinked Too" also debuting, there are some box-office watchers who think the fifth "Fast and Furious" movie could be even bigger this weekend.

Some — to Universal's chagrin — have even suggested the movie could eclipse $80 million this weekend.

"It looks really good to me," said a rival-studio distribution chief. "I thought their trailer and TV spots were great."

As tentpoles go, reviews have been especially solid, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the movie at 81 percent fresh as of Thursday afternoon.

And you wanna talk tracking? Lets talk tracking.

According to NRG, "Fast Five" has 91 percent total awareness among men 25 and older, with a whopping 68 percent reporting "definite interest" in seeing the film and a huge 35 percent describing it as their "first choice."

But really, can it do $80 million in market that's down 20 percent this year?

"Given the marketplace, you have to be very cautious with that kind of prediction noted a Universal official, who didn't even factor in tornado disruption in the Southern U.S. this week.

And even 2009's "Fast and Furious," which grossed a franchise-high $363 million worldwide, opened to only $71 million (yeah, only).

Regardless of how it shakes out, "Fast Five" will very likely yield good news for a studio and box office that could use it.

The film is budgeted at $125 million after tax breaks, opens at 3,643 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and returns core cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, while introducing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

It's already opened No. 1 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South America, grossing $31.5 million abroad through Tuesday. "Fast Five" adds Germany, Russia, Spain and numerous other parts of Europe to its international portfolio this weekend.

Tracking suggests the film's multiple in the U.S will also be big, with projections in the 3-plus range.

As for Disney's PG-rated "Prom," tracking sugggests the film — bugeted at below $10 million and opening in 2,730 locations across North America — could very well earn back its modest negative cost during its first weekend, with pre-release estimates coming in at around $8 million-$10 million.

One of the first films greenlit at Disney by "High School Musical" mastermind Rich Ross, the studio — which is trying diversify a bit from pricey tentpoles — hopes the youth-targeted movie spawns a profitable, low-cost franchise.

Among its core demo, women under 25, the niche-targeted "Prom" is scoring 78 percent total awareness, according to NRG, with 35 percent reporting definite interest and 9 percent listing it as first choice.

"It's just a fun movie with good music," sums up Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane.

Opening in 2,505 locations, meanwhile, Weinstein's CG-animated "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" is projected to open to around $6 million-$8 million on a negative cost of about $18 million reported negative cost of $30 million.

Produced by San Francisco-based Kanbar Entertainment, the film — which has been converted to 3D — is a sequel to 2005's fairy tale-skewering "Hoodwinked!," and has been delayed for several years from theatrical fruition by legal squabling between Weinstein and Kanbar.

The voice cast is solid, with Glenn Close, Hayden Psnettiere, Cheech Marin, Patrick Warburton, Bill Hader and Joan Cusack stepping behind the mic. Reviews are terrible, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the sequel at 11 percent.

According to NRG, younger males and females report awareness of over 60 percent and definite interest above 20 percent for the lightly promoted film.

But with Universal's "Hop" and Fox's "Rio" also in the marketplace, "first choice" is only hovering around 1 percent-2 percent for both groups.

Finally, one other film will open widely this weekend, with Freestyle Releasing putting indie horror comedy "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" into 862 domestic locations.

The film stars former "Superman" Brandon Routh as a supernatural detective working the beat in the Louisiana's Bayou country.