Weekend Box Office (September 26 - 28, 2014)
THIS WEEKEND 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.
Compared to projections, The Equalizer opened a few notches higher than my $32M forecast while The Boxtrolls was very close to my $16M prediction.
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Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Gone Girl, Annabelle, and Left Behind all open.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: September 28, 2014 at 1:45PM ET
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