‘The Equalizer’ likely to win by wide margin

ScreenerBlog

Remarkably, each one of the 11 Denzel Washington films exhibited as a major release (bowing in over 1,800 theatres) over the past decade opened to $20 million or more. The popular star is one of Hollywood’s biggest draws, and there’s little evidence to suggest his latest, The Equalizer, will fall short of past successes.

The vigilante thriller co-starring Chloe Grace Moretz bows in 3,234 locations beginning today.  It’s squarely in the vein of previous Washington vehicles The Book of Eli and Man on Fire. More importantly, it sees the actor re-teaming with director Antoine Fuqua. The last time the two worked together, on 2001’s Training Day, Washington walked away with an Academy Award. Marketing surrounding the film has been strong and targeted; there’s been a push to reach fans of Eminem, for instance, as the rapper’s “Guts over Fear” plays during the film’s end credits. Fandango has the actioner out-selling Washington’s Safe House (which bowed to a little over $40 million) and Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen ($30.4 million). The Equalizer could well gross $30 million or more this weekend.

That leaves animated family offering The Boxtrolls and last week’s box-office champion, The Maze Runner, to duke it out for second place. The Boxtrolls is the latest release from Laika Animation, the studio behind the well-received Coraline and ParaNorman. Boxtrolls has been receiving mostly positive reviews (it’s 70 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), although it hasn’t been as warmly embraced as Coraline (90 percent fresh) and ParaNorman (87 percent fresh). It has been the subject of a strong marketing campaign; however, it remains to be seen whether audiences will respond favorably to the American Laika’s take on a British sensibility (the movie is set in Victorian England) and material, for all that the titular trolls look rather gruesome, that seems to be lighter than benchmarks Coraline and ParaNorman. Still, The Boxtrolls should match ParaNorman’s $14.1 million opening.

Assuming a drop of roughly 50 percent or so, The Maze Runner should also rake in returns in the mid-teens.

This weekend also sees the release of another faith-based film, The Song. Like The Identical, and as its title would suggest, the flick has a musical bent, focusing on a musician who finds redemption from his sinner ways via his faith in God. Hopefully, the film opens stronger than Identical, which grossed only $1.59 million from 2,000 theatres.

Finally, specialty British film Pride bows in six locations. Critics love the historical dramedy about gay-rights and labor activists working together in Thatcher-era England (it’s 92 percent fresh), a positive reception that should translate to solid art-house returns.