Give the kids and teens something they want to see, and they will come. After a summer where many films aimed at younger crowds failed to ignite the North American box office, The Maze Runner gave the youngsters something to be excited about. The adaptation of James Dashner’s young adult bestseller opened to $32.5 million and took the top spot on a mild September weekend. Among comparative titles, that was even better than the opening for other male-centric sci-fi or fantasy adaptations like Ender’s Game ($27 million) and the first Percy Jackson film ($31.2 million), which arguably had much bigger fan bases.
Budgeted at just $34 million, the sci-fi adventure opened in line with industry expectations, but acted unaccustomed to the norm of films based on popular YA texts. While Twilight and The Fault in our Stars both made more than half of their opening weekend takes on their first day, The Maze Runner‘s opening day (which includes a $1.1 take from late Thursday showtimes) was under 35% of its weekend total. A decent jump on Saturday indicates that the film is playing well with families. It also grossed $3.3 million from 351 IMAX cinemas. With an A- CinemaScore and not much out for teenage crowds over the next month, The Maze Runner should have a healthy, ahem, run in theaters.
Two moderate-budgeted openers (also based on bestsellers) followed, with mild but expected first weekends. A Walk Among the Tombstones, a dark drama starring Liam Neeson as NYPD detective Matthew Scudder, opened in second with an estimated $13.1 million. Based on Lawrence Block’s book of the same name, Tombstones could not generate the same excitement as other thrillers starring Neeson, such as Non-Stop ($28.9 million) or The Grey ($19.7 million). The opening was also less than two thirds the starting gross for Prisoners ($20.8 million), another moody thriller that came out on this weekend last year. With hefty competition for adults coming over the next three weeks, beginning with Denzel Washington and The Equalizer next weekend, do not expect a long walk in theaters for this title.