North American audiences came out in big numbers to see Denzel Washington fight for the little guy as his latest action thriller The Equalizer opened at number one selling an estimated $35M worth of tickets. It was the third largest debut of the double Oscar winner’s career behind just American Gangster ($43.6M in 2007) and Safe House ($40.2M in 2012) and proved once again how bankable and consistent he is as a box office draw. Over the past decade, every single one of Washington’s 12 starring vehicles has debuted north of $20M and was among the top three for its opening weekend. Half of them reached the number one spot.
Equalizer also scored the fourth biggest September opening in history. Sony launched the brutal R-rated crime thriller in 3,236 theaters including 352 IMAX screens and averaged a robust $10,816 per location. Washington’s older-skewing brand of action pics and dramas are not known to be premium-priced events so having 9% of the weekend gross come from IMAX was impressive.
Studio research showed that 65% of the audience was over 30 while the gender split was fairly even with 52% being male. Washington is a reliable draw with adult couples and is seen as someone who does not pick bad projects. Heavy promotion with the NFL and Eminem (who contributed a new song) paid off. Reviews were mixed but paying customers liked what they got as evidenced by a good A- CinemaScore.
The Equalizer opened to an estimated $17.8M from 65 overseas markets including the United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and Australia. Washington is not as strong of a draw internationally as he is in the U.S with his last three films making more here than abroad. But breaking $200M worldwide is certainly a possibility for Equalizer which cost $55M to produce.
Fox’s adventure drama The Maze Runner dropped 46% in its second weekend to an estimated $17.5M. It was a moderate decline and boosted the total to date to $58M. Produced for under $35M, look for Maze to reach a solid domestic final of about $90M with its sequel already set to release on the same weekend next September.
Opening in third place with respectable results was the creepy toon The Boxtrolls with an estimated $17.3M from 3,464 locations for a $4,980 average. The PG-rated film’s debut gross edged out the $16.8M bow of the same company’s Coraline from 2009, however that film launched in 1,165 fewer theaters for a stronger $7,329 average.
The new Focus release skewed 57% male and earned a decent B+ CinemaScore from audiences. Reviews were generally upbeat. With no competing animated films over the next couple of weeks and the Halloween season getting started soon, Boxtrolls could play well into October and find its way to a final gross in the neighborhood of $70M.
The Warner Bros. comedy This Is Where I Leave You dropped a reasonable 39% in its second weekend for a good hold. The Jason Bateman-Tina Fey pic grossed an estimated $7M and raised its total to $22.6M. Off 46% in its third lap was Dolphin Tale 2 with an estimated $4.8M pushing the cume for Warner Bros. to $33.7M which is off 31% from the pace of its predecessor at the same point.
No Good Deed followed with an estimated $4.6M, down 53%, for a good sum of $46.6M for Sony. Liam Neeson’s action entry A Walk Among the Tombstones tumbled by 67% for a weak sophomore showing collecting an estimated $4.2M. Universal’s cume is $20.9M on its way to a dull $28M.
>Guardians of the Galaxy stayed in the top ten for a ninth weekend and surpassed the lifetime grosses of the first Iron Man, Transformers, and Harry Potter films in the process. Star Lord and pals slipped 28% to an estimated $3.8M boosting the domestic tally to a sensational $319.2M. That puts Guardians at number 33 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges helped, but still, for the Groot pic to reach this level is amazing considering that the characters are not well-known in the mainstream world and that it played in a less lucrative time of year. The global gross for Guardians shot up to $644.3M heading to $750M+. A big opening in China is right around the corner on October 10.
The buddy comedy Let’s Be Cops grossed an estimated $1.5M, down 44%, putting Fox at $79.6M. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pulled in an estimated $1.5M as well and fell 45% in its eighth weekend. Paramount’s new cume is $187.2M with the worldwide tally rising up to $342.1M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $97.1M which was up 6% from last year when Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 debuted at number one with $34M; but off 6% from 2012 when Hotel Transylvania opened on top with $42.5M.
The latest young-adult-novel-to-film took control of the box office as The Maze Runner more than doubled its nearest competitor, while films with much more star power opened quietly in second and third.
Generating the sixth biggest September opening in history, Fox’s The Maze Runner debuted with a very strong $32.5M from 3,604 theaters for a per screen average of $9,018, according to estimates. Turning young adult novels into films has been a hit-or-miss kind of thing over the last few years. For every Hunger Games or Harry Potter there has been a Beautiful Creatures or Vampire Academy. While The Maze Runner won’t reach the heights of the former, its opening weekend has already beaten out the entire runs of the latter. There are two sequels to the book and one prequel in the works so we may have gotten another young adult franchise off the ground.
Second place belonged to Liam Neeson and A Walk Among the Tombstones. Opening in 2,712 theaters, the film only managed to reach an estimated $13.1M, for a per screen average of $4,840. Reviews for the film were better than the two Taken films and Neeson’s last thrill ride, Non-Stop, but the Cinemascore for his latest revenge flick was a poor B-, meaning it simply did not connect with audiences. That could help explain why the opening was so much lower than the three films it is destined to be compared against, but one would have imagined from the trailers alone people would have gone out opening weekend as this is the type of role they’ve come to enjoy from Neeson. Time will tell if the Neeson-as-action-star genre has faded when Taken 3 opens in January.
The year of generic movie names continued with This is Where I Leave You opening in third place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,868 screens for an average of $4,135. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne (who, as those of you who read my reviews know, I believe should be in every movie) and Adam Driver, the comedy from Warner Bros. had a B+ Cinemascore, which is good, but not great. Even with the starpower, did the movie get lost in the shuffle because it was poorly named? Look at the name of some of the films from this summer and see if you can tell the difference between them: Stay, Begin Again, Wish I Was Here, If I Stay, And So It Goes, What If, and Are You Here. By the time This Is Where I Leave You hit theaters this weekend, it kind of felt like I had already seen the film because it sounded like half a dozen other ones. Middle-of-the-road reviews certainly didn’t help, but if you don’t make your movie stand out in the marketplace these days, you’ll get buried beneath the noise.
Last week’s top film No Good Deed fell 58% from its strong opening to an estimated $10.2M, bringing its total up to $40M. Look for it to end its run in the $60M range. Following closely behind was Dolphin Tale 2 which had a smaller drop of only 43%, taking in an estimated $9M this weekend, bringing its cume to $27M with a final total likely in the $45M range.
The current number one film of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy ended up in sixth place this weekend with the smallest drop in the top 10, falling 36% to an estimated $5.2M, bringing its total to an out-of-this-world $313M. With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and the finale of The Hobbit trilogy still looming, it’s unlikely Guardians of the Galaxy will remain the top film of 2014, but it has been an incredible debut ride for the latest heroes in the Marvel universe.
Holdovers took the final four spots in the top 10 this weekend. The comedy hit Let’s Be Cops took in an estimated $2.675 this weekend bringing its total up to an impressive $77M. The heroes in a half shell, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was very close behind with $2.65M, according to estimates (look for a possible change in order when the final numbers come in on Monday), bringing its total to $185M. Fox Searchlight’s The Drop tumbled 50% in its second outing to an estimated $2M, bringing its total to $7.7M with not much left to go. And rounding out the top 10 was If I Stay which took in an additional $1.8M, according to estimates, for a $47.6M total so far.
Debuting poorly outside the top 10 was Kevin Smith’s horror-comedy Tusk which managed to generate almost no interest, taking in an estimated $886,000 from 602 screens for a per screen average of only $1,472.
The top 10 grossed an estimated $91M this weekend, which is up 30% from 2013 when Prisoners debuted at number one with $20.8M; and up 26% from 2012 when End of Watch led the charts with $13M.
Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing No Good Deed‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.
Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter, stars of the upcoming adaptation The Maze Runner, talk about the film and then battle each other to the death in a maze.