The Strange Success of the Fast and the Furious Franchise

The story of The Fast and the Furious is an interesting one, in that it's perhaps the only action franchise in Hollywood history to start moderately and end up as a massive gargantuan blockbuster hit, such that it quickly catapulted itself to being the third most profitable action franchise of all time (and with the potential to easily rise to the number two or number one spot).

It's a success that's still not noticed by a lot of movie fans, of which, I was one until my recent article on Hollywood film profitable for franchises.

 I only knew the franchise as that "car racing" movie that had a few second tier actors from Hollywood that you recognized by didn't necessarily know by name, beyond say Vin Diesel.  Sure, I knew the films were successful - for one thing, they kept making them - but I didn't realize how successful.

The franchise started off in 2001 as a small modestly budgeted $35 million action film dealing with the underground world of street racing, which tied into a cops and robbers story.  It was successful, earning $100 million domestically and another $100 million internationally.  A nice return on investment.  But there was no way it was ever out performing The Dark Knight or The Matrix movies or Mission Impossible, or any of the other huge "blockbuster" franchises.

Well, as it turns out, I was wrong.  The second film in the franchise was another modest hit, and the third, which suddenly took place in Tokyo with different characters, didn't do nearly as well as the first two films.

 But then the fourth film returned to the roots of the first and the film earned nearly $300 million globally at the box office.  Fortunes were on the rise.  The fifth film earned $626 million, the sixth film $789, and the latest, released earlier this year, earned $1.5 billion just in global ticket sales.

 This catapulted the franchise into the territory of Avatar and Star Wars.  (See chart at inset to show increasing box office results in millions of dollars.)

None of this made any sense.  How could a small car racing movie out perform these gargantuan sci-fi summer blockbusters?

Well, as it turns out, the Fast and the Furious franchise is no longer a series of "car racing" movies.  Instead, they've become more like James Bond, films focusing on international cartels and crimes and terrorism.  Think more James Bond than car racing.  For another, as box office receipts have grown, so have the budgets.  The most recent film cost $200 million, that's a big jump for a series which just fourteen years earlier was made for only $35 million.  The stunts and special effects and a large rotating cast of characters have all grown massively.

This is a franchise which has only proved the rule that you can never really predict box office, success, or what will connect with audiences.  

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Rico, Johnny. "The Strange Success of the Fast and the Furious Franchise." ThoughtCo, Jun. 28, 2015, thoughtco.com/the-strange-success-of-the-fast-and-the-furious-franchise-4127262. Rico, Johnny. (2015, June 28). The Strange Success of the Fast and the Furious Franchise. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-strange-success-of-the-fast-and-the-furious-franchise-4127262 Rico, Johnny. "The Strange Success of the Fast and the Furious Franchise." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-strange-success-of-the-fast-and-the-furious-franchise-4127262 (accessed October 20, 2017).