While the 2015 domestic and worldwide box-office appears to be off to a healthier start than 2014, this weekend looks to kick it into high gear.
The highly-anticipated "Furious 7" hits theaters this weekend - and it looks to do incredible business.
The film has a lot going for it. A brand that seems to keep getting stronger. Stars still at the height of their popularity. An incredible trailer. Fresh faces like Jason Statham, Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa to bring in even new fans.
There will also, of course, be the factor of Paul Walker's death during filming. While it is uncertain if this is indeed the "last ride" for the cast, fans know it will be Walker's final adventure. This is sure to make seeing the film on the big screen even more urgent for fans of the series.
So how much more can this series grow? Can it crack the "Billion-dollar Club" at the box-office.
The answers are: A lot and it has a very good chance.
First, of the 17 films that have passed the $1 Billion mark during their initial runs ("Jurassic Park" and "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" needed rereleases to hit the milestone) the vast majority have been sequels - 12 of 17 as a matter of fact.
Even the five "original" films have a bit of an asterisk next to them. "Avatar" and "Titanic" were passion projects of James Cameron and were hyped and anticipated for years. "Marvel's The Avengers" was basically the sequel to four preceding films. "Alice In Wonderland" obviously has brand name recognition.
No, the only original film that came out of nowhere to hit the mark was "Frozen".
Okay, the next question is if the franchise has come close to the mark before and if it has enough heat to push it over the top.
The answers? Not really and definitely.
Ever since 2006's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" posted numbers that were easily the lowest in the history of the franchise both domestically ( a puny $62.5 million domestic take) and worldwide (only $158.5 million!), each sequel has outperformed it's predecessor.
2009's "Fast and Furious" resurrected the franchise with a $70 million domestic opening, $155 million domestic take and a $363.2 million worldwide haul.
2011's "Fast Five" improved in each category with a $86.1 million opening, $209.8 million domestic take and a worldwide take that nearly doubled, to $626.1 million.
2013's "Fast & Furious 6" even improved on that, despite he fact that a head-to-head Memorial Day Weekend showdown with "The Hangover Part III" almost certainly caused it to lose some of it's target demographic.
In any event, "Fast & Furious 6" set franchise highs in terms of Opening Weekend, with $97.3 million; domestic take, with $238.6 million and Worldwide Take, with $788.7 million.
So, does "Furious 7" have a chance of generating a new franchise high, by $211.3 million and make $1 billion worldwide?
This seems to be borne out by the fact that "Furious 7" is already projecting a $115 million opening weekend, which is likely low and also guarantees the film a $250 million domestic run.
When you take into account the Walker factor, an opening weekend all to itself, the trailer, the additions of Statham, Rousey and Jaa to an already star-studded, multicultural cast that plays well overseas, ticket-price inflation, tons of buzz and glowing reviews (88% Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and all the pieces seem to be in lace for a franchise record-setting run - and a ticket to the Billion-Dollar Club.
When you consider that "Furious 7" is doing 60% better business overseas than "Fast & Furious 6", it seems all the more likely.
I say "Furious 7" has a 60 % chance of joining the Billion-Dollar Club.
If it does, it should have plenty of company in 2015, with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" being slam-dunks to hit the milestone; "Spectre" close to one as well; and "Minions", "Jurassic World", "Inside Out", Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation", "The Good Dinosaur" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" all having shots to varying degrees.
I'll analyze them further after the opening weekend numbers for "Furious 7" are in.
What do you all think?