*”Fast & Furious 6″ zoomed to $120 million over the past four days and has been the driving force behind the biggest Memorial Day weekend ever at the domestic box office.
Latinos made up 32 percent of its audience, as they did for the previous entry in Universal’s muscle car franchise “Fast Five,” and this film is now on track to pass that one as the highest-grossing in the series.
“It’s not just Hispanics, it’s the diversity in general that helped this movie become so popular,” Universal’s distribution chief Nikki Rocco told TheWrap Monday, and the numbers bear that out. White moviegoers made up 29 percent of the audience, while African-Americans were 22 percent and Asians were 13 percent.
Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and the rest of the cast easily outdistanced the weekend’s No. 2 film, “The Hangover Part III.” The finale in the raunchy R-rated comedy franchise will finish the four days with around $51 million, and has run up $63 million for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures since opening Thursday.
Last week’s No. 1 film, Paramount’s and Skydance Production’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” was third with nearly $47 million for the long weekend. That topped the weekend’s other wide opener, Fox’s animated “Epic,” which brought in $41 million.
According to The Wrap, the connection of “Fast & Furious 6″ with Latino audiences is no accident. With stars like Michelle Rodriguez, and a healthy amount of Spanish dialog, Universal went out of its way to court them.
In its marketing, the studio made a point of emphasizing elements that set it apart from summer blockbusters headlined by white males, namely a cast that included Asian, African-American and Latino actors like Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Sung Kang.
“We’re the Benetton of casting,” Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Universal Pictures co-president of production, told TheWrap prior to the film’s opening. The result is a cast that looks like many of today’s moviegoers — social media savvy, ethnic and frequently bilingual.
Broadening the base via the multicultural casting is a strategy that translates abroad as well. The effects really began to kick in with “Fast Five,” which was set in Rio and drew more than $632 million worldwide, nearly $270 million more than what the next highest grossing film in the franchise had netted. Internationally the film continued to pick up steam, more than doubling the previous high-water mark for foreign grosses on a “Fast” film.
“Fast & Furious 6″ could be even bigger overseas. It opened No. 1 in 59 foreign markets and took in roughly $160 million abroad this weekend, giving it a global total of $300 million, the studio’s best-ever worldwide opening. At $13 million, Mexico was the second-highest grossing market, behind only Russia with $17.8 million.