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‘Fast & Furious’s’ lucky seventh gets help from late star

Walker’s death propels interest in franchise’s latest installment

Reuters

Paul Walker’s death halfway through filming of “Furious 7” is fueling interest in the street-racing movie.

(MarketWatch)—In Hollywood, the sixth sequel to a film often means the series is about to flame out, but for “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, box-office prognosticators say the seventh could set a record, due in part to the last appearance by one of its stars who died during filming.

The latest incarnation in the street-racing series, “Furious 7,” turned in $67.3 million in North American box-office on Friday, and Comcast Corp.’sCMCSK, +0.02% Universal Pictures unit is predicting it will end up with nearly $150 million in domestic receipts for the Friday-to-Sunday period. Box-office watchers say it could be the biggest grosser in the series by far.

“This obliterates the April record, breaking the weekend and the single-day [records],” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak.

Helping fuel interest in the film is the challenge imposed on “Furious” filmmakers as one of its stars, Paul Walker, died in a real-life car accident about halfway through the shooting of the film, in November 2013. Its producers were forced to pull a few Hollywood tricks, including body doubles and heavy use of computer graphics imaging, to complete the scenes featuring Walker.

The old April record of $95 million was set by last year’s “Captain America,” followed by two others in the “Furious” series, 2011’s “Fast Five” and 2009’s “Fast & Furious.” “Fast Five” made more than $86 million domestically on its first weekend, while “Fast & Furious,” the fourth film in the series made nearly $71 million.

Since the series made its debut in 2001, each successive “Furious” film has made more than its predecessors, except for 2006’s “Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the third film in the series. The biggest moneymaker thus far has been 2013’s “Fast & Furious 6,” which was released in May 2013, about six months before Walker died.

“Fast & Furious 6” made nearly $790 million world-wide. Dergarabedian says this latest installment, with the back story of Walker’s death, could push it to nearly $1 billion, particularly since there is little on the release slate between now and the first weekend of May, the beginning of Hollywood’s traditional summer season.

“It was already predicted to be a major hit, no question about it,” Dergarabedian said.