Weekend Box Office (September 19 - 21, 2014)


by Sujit Chawla

THIS WEEKEND 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 Taken 3 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 (the real) 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.

Compared to projections, The Maze Runner came in a little above Gitesh's prediction of $26M, while A Walk Among the Tombstones came in a little below his $17M projection. This Is Where I Leave You came in right on target with his $12M prediction.

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THIS WEEKEND's TOP 10


Last Updated: September 18, 2014 at 2:30PM ET

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