Box Office: Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer Caps Off September With $35 Million Opening

Man on Fire 2: Electric Boogaloo

September is one of those “off months” for Hollywood when it comes to theatrical releases. With the end of summer and the start of school, studios are less inclined to push something like they would when a bigger audience is to be expected (see summer movie season or holiday releases). And when it comes to all-time openings for the month of September the biggest was Adam Sandler’s animated Hotel Transylvania and its $42.5 million bow in 2012.

September 2014 has seen two movies already with healthy openings. The first was No Good Deed, a domestic thriller that can be argued is aimed to a more “urban” demographic because it starred Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, neither of whom are household names (but are talented actors nonetheless). Despite pathetic reviews it opened with $24.5 million. That success was surpassed by last week’s YA adaptation of The Maze Runner ($32.5 million). Now we arrive at Denzel Washington and the adaptation of the 1980s TV series The Equalizer – some of you may remember seeing a brief clip of it in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street when Rob Reiner gets a call at the start of the show.

Much in the same way Harrison Ford and his star appeal in the early 1990s propelled the feature film adaptation of The Fugitive Washington uses his box office power to steamroll past the competition to make a commanding splash with a $35 million opening (the 4th highest opening in the month of September, wedged in between Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon and a sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). That may seem small compared to the $100 million Transformers: Age of Extinction got back in late June (coincidentally that movie hits DVD and Blu-ray on September 30th), but if you compare Washington’s recent output it is right in line. If you take out his directorial efforts Antoine Fisher and The Great Debaters, since 2000 he’s had 15 out of 16 films open at $20 million or more. The biggest openings are 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Safe House and now The Equalizer.

Having been intrigued with The Equalizer since it was in development with one of my favorite novelists, Michael Connelly (the author that helmed The Lincoln Lawyer that was adapted to screen and starred Matthew McConaughey), writing the script, my interest waned considerably once director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) boarded the project and with Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2) doing the screenplay. When the first advertisement popped up it looked okay, though it didn’t seem that much different than Tony Scott’s Man on Fire. But older viewers were inclined to see it, and with a stellar “A-” Cinemascore it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t be the biggest release of the weekend.

Its performance doubled second place finisher The Maze Runner, which only dropped 46% in its second week to take $17.5 million. Animation studio LAIKA, the ones responsible for Coraline and ParaNorman, had the best debut in the company’s history with the $17.25 million opening for The Boxtrolls. That figure puts it as the second-highest debut of a stop-motion animated film behind 2009’s Chicken Run ($17.5 million).

Even with the early news that Guardians of the Galaxy will make it to DVD and Blu-ray in time for Christmas this year (on December 9th), it continues to be a resident of the top ten. Falling to eighth place it has spent nine consecutive weeks as part of box office discussion. Having surpassed the domestic gross of Iron Man and worldwide gross of Thor: The Dark World, it is now the third-highest grossing Marvel movie in the U.S. (with $319 million). The only ones ahead of it are the Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, both of which earned more than a billion worldwide in theaters. Guardians is sitting at $644 million so it won’t reach the billion milestone but it could inevitably surpass Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be the third-highest worldwide. I’m sure Rocket has a plan to make it happen.

Sadly, it looks like audiences wanted more of Taken Liam Neeson as opposed to the brooding private investigator they got with A Walk Among the Tombstones. Only $20.8 million after two weeks, it dropped 66.8%. That’s too bad, because it is a good movie that deserves better, unlike No Good Deed which got leaped by Dolphin Tale 2 in its third week in the top ten.

Probably the most unlikely success story of late summer that no one is really talking about is Fox’s Let’s Be Cops. The $17 million comedy starring a pair of unknowns, unless you watch TV’s The New Girl (Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.), has been in release for seven weeks and made nearly $80 million domestic, plus another $25 million overseas.

Upcoming this weekend we have David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel Gone Girl squaring off against Warner Bros.’ Annabelle (spun off from the success of The Conjuring) and Left Behind starring Nicolas Cage. My hope is that older audiences once again take command of the box office to help propel Gone Girl to a first place finish.

Full top ten below.

01. The Equalizer — $35,000,000
02. The Maze Runner — $17,500,000 ($58,018,000)
03. The Boxtrolls — $17,250,000
04. This is Where I Leave You — $7,010,000 ($22,557,000)
05. Dolphin Tale 2 — $4,835,000 ($33,665,000)
06. No Good Deed — $4,600,000 ($46,623,000)
07. A Walk Among the Tombstones — $4,234,000 ($20,871,000)
08. Guardians of the Galaxy — $3,789,000 ($319,192,000)
09. Let’s Be Cops — $1,515,000 ($79,628,000)
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — $1,450,000 ($187,182,000)

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