Denzel Washington retained his position as one of the biggest box office draws around (and one of the most consistent hit makers in the business), as The Equalizer grabbed an estimated $35 million to take the top spot at the North American box office. His R-rated thriller was the third-biggest opening of his career, after American Gangster ($43.6 million) and Safe House ($40.2 million), but those titles also had more bankable co-stars sharing the marquee with him.
The newest team-up between the A-lister and his Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, opened at the high end of industry expectations. It was also the fourth-biggest opening in September history (after Hotel Transylvania, Insidious Chapter 2 and Sweet Home Alabama), but the largest unadjusted gross for an R-rated opener in this month.
With an aggressive marketing campaign, which included a premiere at the Toronto film festival, and few options for adults (viewers 30 and over counted as 65% of the total audience), The Equalizer‘s opening was not too surprising. With a heavy number of options for adults coming out in October – such as Gone Girl, The Judge and Fury – the film needed a big gross to keep momentum in the marketplace. An A- CinemaScore bodes well for the $55 million thriller, which was based on a late Eighties TV drama starring Edward Woodward. Meanwhile, many of Washington’s films end up with a final more than three times their opening weekend, so a $100 million plus total is likely.
Holding much better than expected for a young adult adaptation was The Maze Runner, which inched out The Boxtrolls to take second place. With $17.5 million in its sophomore frame, just a 46% drop from its opening, Fox must be feeling more comfortable about its new franchise. (The sequel, subtitled Scorch Trials, comes out on September 18, 2015.) In comparison, The Fault in Our Stars tumbled 69% in its second weekend. With $58 million so far in ticket sales, the dystopian thriller could finish with between $85 and $90 million.