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Since its inception back in 2001, the Fast and Furious franchise's path of success has taken the shape of the world's wildest roller coaster. While the first movie was a big hit, making over $200 million worldwide on a tiny $38 million budget, but the series stalled with its second and third installments, which broke normal Hollywood trends by making less money with each new movie. And then the bounce back came. The fourth film, Fast and Furious, released in 2009, actually managed to outpace the original movie and set the stage for the biggest hit: Fast Five, which made $626 million globally.

And soon the strange journey will continue. Fast & Furious 6 is one of this year's most anticipated blockbusters and is heading for a big showdown with The Hangover Part III when both movies debut head-to-head on Memorial Day weekend. But the racing car franchise has one ace up its sleeve that seemingly no other franchise has capitalized on: the power of the internet.

The business section of the New York Times has run an article about the use of social media in the world of film promotion, and their big discovery is that no other upcoming movie has control of outlets like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube more than the Fast & Furious franchise. And the numbers don't lie. According to the newspaper's research, the film's Facebook page has 24 million likes ("more than any active film series except Avatar"); star Vin Diesel has more likes than any actor other than Will Smith (Diesel uses the site regularly to post exclusive images from his movies); and the recent Super Bowl trailer for the latest installment is outpacing both Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness with 16 million views on YouTube (compared to the 3 million for the hotly anticipated Marvel Studios film). What's more, the fan base on social media networks is only growing, with the franchise gaining 844,000 new likes since its first trailer was released during the Big Game earlier this month.

It's all part of clever moves made by the studio. The article notes that when the trailer for Fast & Furious 6 premiered Universal Pictures, the studio behind the film, had all of the stars promote it on their individual pages. Executives and producers have also left key elements in the hands of the fans, including the revival of Michelle Rodriguez's character Letty (who reportedly came back as a "direct result of a fan campaign"); the casting of Dwayne Johnson in the fifth movie; and the title of the new sequel (which was selected due to the results of an online poll).

The entire article features multiple quotes from the cast and crew and is quite interesting, so I would highly recommend reading the whole article. But there is still a very important question remaining: how will it translate at the box office? People are certainly excited for the film, but will that translate to big numbers on opening weekend, especially with The Hangover Part III likely set to steal a good chunk of the film's key demographic? We'll just have to wait until May to find out.

For more about Fast & Furious 6, head over to our Blend Film Database.