Lukewarm receptions for the latter films put “F9” in the hot seat — especially with Hollywood desperately searching for evidence that fans are ready to come back to the movies after COVID-linked lockdowns forced them to shut down.
“This is the first big movie that we are seeing in this post-pandemic world, which has this huge audience appeal,” Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Media Analyst Geetha Ranganathan told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.
“It’s almost like the stars are finally aligning,” she added, citing easing capacity restrictions and rising vaccination rates as theaters continue to combat the after-effects of COVID-19.
Opening weekend estimates for “F9” have ranged anywhere from $60 million to $80 million. Ranganathan explained that any box office debut above $70 million would be a “huge, huge success” in this post-pandemic world.
For context, “A Quiet Place II” — which currently holds the title of highest pandemic opening — earned $57 million over its opening weekend last month. In a normal world that would have been a modest haul at best, but the film shattered low expectations and boosted optimism that movies were set for a comeback.
China ‘critical’ market as streaming risks multiply
“F9” has performed exceptionally well overseas, earning $300 million during its international debut last month — with $200 million in ticket sales coming from China.
Since 2013, over 70% of the franchise’s ticket sales have come from international markets.
“China has always been a very, very critical market — not just for the the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, but for so many of the other franchises as well,” Ranganathan told Yahoo Finance. She referenced the hugely profitable Marvel franchises, which typically rake in 20%-30% of their box office sales from China alone.
“I think for all of the studios going forward, we are going to see that China will continue to play a very important role, especially as we have this [little bit of] overhang in the North American box office market from streaming,” Ranganathan cautioned.
She added that the appetite for consuming content at home has reached a “pervasive” level domestically, but “we’re not necessarily seeing that in all overseas markets.”
“Consumers have now really been trained to consume so much of content at home, so streaming obviously presents the biggest risk,” Ranganathan said.
Media giants like Disney (DIS) continue to pump out streaming exclusives as a way to pump up subscriber numbers and improve valuations.
Most recently, Netflix (NFLX) inked a a multi-year deal with Steven Spielberg and his production company, Amblin Partners, to supply the platform with multiple movies per year over the course of the agreement.
“There’s now the risk of product and not having enough product to actually reach theaters,” Ranganathan noted. That, coupled with the new shortened theatrical window of just 45 days and increased use of hybrid film releases, has clouded the outlook, she said.
“Things are brightening up, but I don’t necessarily think that the industry is completely out of the woods yet. We have to see if this recovery can be sustained,” she added.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193