Will ‘F9’ Become the First Hollywood Film to Top $200 Million at China’s Box Office in 2 Years?

Movie theaters have fully recovered in China, where the last five ”Fast & Furious“ films have grossed over $1 billion

The biggest movie release this weekend isn’t in the United States. It’s in China. With the Asian box office largely recovered from COVID-19, Universal will send its biggest blockbuster franchise, “Fast & Furious,” back to theaters overseas with the release of “F9” this Friday — a full month before it hits U.S. theaters.

That marks a big bet for Universal on one of its most lucrative franchises. With the world reeling from the pandemic this past year, only a small handful of new Hollywood films have attempted a release in China. So far in 2021, the only Hollywood film among the top 10 highest grossing films has been Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which grossed $189 million since March 26. Other pandemic releases have performed more modestly in China, including “The Croods: A New Age,” ($53.6 million), “Tenet” ($66.6 million) and “Soul” ($58 million).

But “Fast & Furious” is the perfect film for Hollywood to test its post-pandemic potential in China, as the country played a major factor in the franchise’s transformation from a street racing series into a global blockbuster behemoth. Dating back to “Fast Five” in 2011, the last five films in the “F&F” series — including the 2019 spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” — have grossed over $1 billion from Chinese theaters alone. And aside from “Avengers: Endgame” ($629 million), “Hobbs & Shaw” is the only Hollywood film since the start of 2019 that has grossed over $200 million in China.

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Jeremy Fuster

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