'F9' stays atop box office as Universal manages rare hat trick

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'Fast and Furious 9' with Vin Diesel et Tyrese Gibson

Universal's "F9: The Fast Saga" remained at top speed over the weekend, earning an estimated $23.

8 million to hold its lead in North American box offices, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.

That total, covering just the first three days of the four-day July 4 holiday weekend, was down sharply from the zoom-bang-bam action film's opening total of $70 million.

Still, this ninth installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise -- starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and John Cena -- fended off two strong new challengers. In fact, Universal pulled off a rare hat trick, dominating all three top box-office spots.

That studio's animated sequel "The Boss Baby: Family Business" placed second, at $17.3 million. The latest yarn about a can-do "boss baby" who energizes -- or infuriates -- all around him features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Eva Longoria, Jeff Goldblum, Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel.

In third was horror film "The Forever Purge," headed for a $12.8 million take. This fifth, and purportedly last, in the "Purge" series is again set in a dystopian near-future where all crime, including murder, is made legal one day a year. Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta star.

Fourth spot went to Paramount's "A Quiet Place: Part II," at $4.2 million. This was the first weekend since the John Krasinski-directed horror film's release six weeks ago that it placed out of the top two.

And in fifth was a Lionsgate sequel, "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard," at $3 million. The action comedy has Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek reprising their roles from 2017's "The Hitman's Bodyguard."

As Hollywood claws its way back from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, studios have yet to release the usual full menu of summer blockbusters. The $70.7 million combined gross of this weekend's top 12 films was less than half the normal from past July 4 weekends.

Rounding out this weekend's top 10 were:

"Cruella" ($2.6 million)

"Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" ($2.3 million)

"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" ($1.3 million)

"In the Heights" ($1.3 million)

"Zola" ($1.2 million)

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