Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: Young Males Make The Maze Runner An Insta-Franchise, Fox Schedules a Sequel for Next September

Here’s what happened at the domestic box office this weekend: In the threeway battle of the book adaptations, the one aimed at kids (The Maze Runner) had a big opening weekend and an instant announcement of a sequel whereas the two that skewed older (Walk Among the Tombstones, This Is Where I Leave You) had soft openings followed by meek “Let’s wait to see how well it holds up next weekend” statements from the respective studios.  Elsewhere, Guardians of the Galaxy is now a bigger worldwide hit than Iron Man 2.  Let’s do the numbers:

Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (9/19-9/21)

1. The Maze Runner (Opening Weekend)


  • Weekend Gross=$32.5 million
  • Budget=$34 million

Foreign: $37.6m from 50 markets this weekend for a new 10-day international total of $49m and worldwide gross of $81.5m

This is literally the only thing you need to know about The Maze Runner’s weekend: by Sunday morning, Fox had already announced a sequel (The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) to come out pretty much exactly one year from now (9/18/15).  Fox is understandable taking its victory laps, telling THR, “We went after teenagers hard and did everything to eventize this film in a play period (Setptember) never tested before. We accomplished the task.”  This is yet another case this year of a film opening outside of a traditional release slot and excelling as a result.  Big budget comic book movies aren’t supposed to come out in April or August, but that worked out exceptionally well for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.  In this case, YA adaptations aren’t supposed to come out in September, a time when its target audience is in school.  So, of course, The Maze Runner pulls in the 6th biggest opening in the history of September.

Nearly 65% of the opening weekend audience was under the age of 25, 48% male, which is considered a real victory since getting younger males out to see movies is increasingly a fool’s errand these days.  Sure, those demos actually mean over half of the film’s audience was female, but that’s pretty much always the case for YA adaptations.  It’s just not normally this close (e.g., Divergent opened 59% female/41% male).

Of course, a $32.5m opening for a YA adaptation is not Hunger Games or Twilight-good.  It’s not even Divergent-good (which scored $56m in its March opening earlier this year).  It’s actually not a whole lot better than Ender’s Game (which pulled in $28m last year).  It’s also nowhere near as bad as the dead-on-arrival openings for Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments, The Giver, and The Host .  It operates in an in-between territory where its totals aren’t as impressive but its profitability level sure is.  Just looking at the domestic box office, you see that it almost made back its entire production budget in its opening weekend.  Expanding out worldwide, you see that it’s already doubled its budget.  That’s a fantastic start for any movie, making for a pretty much automatic green light for that sequel.

2. A Walk Among the Tombstones (Opening Weekend)


  • Weekend Gross=$13.1 million
  • Budget=$23 million

Foreign: No international box office yet

It was 1998 when Walk Among the Tombstones writer/director Scott Frank first encountered the Lawrence Block novel upon which the film is based.  He loved it, and by 2002 he had finished a screenplay adaptation.  That was the beginning of a decade long development process during which the Hollywood studios continually told Frank that his movie answered a question nobody was asking.  In other word, there was no longer a market for old-fashioned, gritty detective drama thrillers (except for on TV).  Of course, the guy Frank had attached to star, Liam Neeson, improbably became an international action star in the interim, and that suddenly gave Walk something which most fringe-y films need to get made: a recognizable name that can be marketed worldwide and presumably guarantee an acceptable opening weekend.

Yeah, that didn’t happen here.  This is well behind the openings for all of Neeson’s recent tough-guy films ($28m for Non-Stop, $49m for Taken 2, $20m for The Grey, $22m for Unknown, $24m for Taken).  Even the studio (Universal) admits they’re a bit disappointed, telling THR, “We wish the numbers were stronger but, having said that, we’ll see where it goes in the coming weeks.”  They say that because a staggering 77% of their opening weekend audience was over the age of 25 (it is rated R, for as much as that matters), and as I’ve said on this site time and time again movies which skew older tend to be far less first-weekend-dependent.  The problem this time around, though, is that Tombstones actually pulled in 51% female this weekend, but is a remarkably grisly film without a single real female character (the ones around are mere plot devices).  So, you’d guess women are going to turn on this one fast, and its true core audience of older males might wait to rent it because didn’t we just see a Neeson action movie earlier this year?  We did; it was called Non-Stop.

3. This Is Where I Leave You (Opening Weekend)


  • Weekend Gross=$11.8 million
  • Budget=$19.8 million

Foreign: No international box office yet

If you thought A Walk Among the Tombstones skewed old then you check out these audience demos for This Is Where I Leave You, Warner Bros.’ star-studded adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s beloved novel:  86% of ticket buyers were over the age of 25, 63% female.  So, basically, if the studio cast Adam Driver from HBO’s Girls – a show far more discussed than it is actually watched – in the hopes of drawing some of that young, Lena Dunham-worshiping crowd they failed.  Instead, older women showed up to check out Driver in the ensemble cast alongside Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, and Jane Fonda.  Warner Bros. is quick to point out that “[Director] Shawn Levy put together a great cast, and the movie was made for a modest price.”  The reviews (42% on RottenTomatoes) indicates this movie isn’t going to bring WB any prestige, but it didn’t cost much and is playing overwhelmingly to older women, i.e., the least fickle audience among current moviegoers.  They gave it a B+ on CinemaScore, which suggests that word of mouth will be decent enough to help This Is Where I Leave You end up with a respectable final domestic gross relative to its modest budget.

4. No Good Deed 


  • Weekend Gross=$10.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$40.1 million
  • Budget=$13.2 million

Foreign: No international box office yet

This is a drop of nearly 60% drop for this Idris Elba/Taraji P. Henson thriller, but what the heck do they care?  They’ve already made 3 times their budget, and will end up making more than the most comparable recent film, last year’s Halle Berry thriller The Call which topped out with just over $50m domestic.

5. Dolphin Tale 2 


  • Weekend Gross=$9 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$27 million
  • Budget=$36 million

Foreign: $3m for a worldwide total of $30.1m

The first Dolphin Tale cost $37m to make, and opened to $19m in September 2011, and it sequel has now arrived 3 years later, cost about the same to make, and opened 14% lower.  It has now declined 43% in its second weekend, which is not great but also not particularly horrible for a family film.  It’s going to need some staying power because it can’t count on any big international boost, not after the first Dolphin Tale barely rose above $20m overseas.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy 


  • Weekend Gross=$5.1 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$313.6 million
  • Budget=$170 million

Foreign: $10.4m this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $318.6m/$632.2m.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s international total is actually fairly far behind the going average for big comic movies these days (e.g., both Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past made over $500m overseas while Winter Soldier racked up $454m).  That will likely change once Guardians finally makes it to China in mid-October.

7. Let’s Be Cops

Lets Be Cops

  • Weekend Gross=$2.6 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$77.1 million
  • Budget=$17 million

Foreign: A new international/worldwide split of $24.1m/$101.3m

Let’s Be Cops has releases scheduled in 23 different foreign countries into January 2015 meaning its box office run is far from over.  However, it is clearly winding down domestically, and now its improbable success is being leveraged to secure future gigs, e.g., the director was just hired to take over the Olympus Has Fallen sequel.

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 

TMNT 2014 Michaelangelo

  • Weekend Gross=$2.6 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$185 million
  • Budget=$125-150 million

Foreign: A new international/worldwide split of $148.3m/$333.3m

TMNT‘s big money going forward is overseas, with Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, Spain and the U.K. all awaiting their turn.  Until those huge markets get to join in, TMNT‘s international gross will continue to seem a tad unremarkable.

9. The Drop 

The Drop Film

  • Weekend Gross=$2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$7.6 million
  • Budget=They’d rather not say

Foreign: No international box office yet

This is a 50% drop for The Drop, James Gandolfini’s final film, which was a delightful surprise last weekend, finishing in the top 10 out of nowhere.  Its slightly less delightful performance this weekend is most likely because it is a film that skews older, and it just got a lot of competition for those same demos from A Walk Among the Tombstones and This Is Where I Leave You.

10. If I Stay 


  • Weekend Gross=$1.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$47.6 million
  • Budget=$11 million

Foreign: A new international/worldwide split of $21.5m/$69.1m, with only one major market – Japan (10/11) – left on the schedule

The Fault in Our Stars was a home run, far and away the most profitable film of the summer with a worldwide gross ($303m) 25 times above its production budget ($12m).  By comparison, If I Stay is more like a solid single or leg-it-out double, earning 6 times over its production budget at the worldwide box office.  Its box office totals aren’t eye-popping, but they should be enough to produce respectable profitability.

What Fell Out of the Top 10?:

The Hundred-Foot Journey (#10 to #11), The Giver (#9 to #13), and The November Man (#8 to #16).

What About Lucy?:

Its domestic run is pretty much over, but its box office explosion overseas is as strong as ever, upping its international/worldwide split to $253m/$377m, an incredible haul for something that only cost $40m to make.

What’s Up Next?:

Remember animated movies?  Aren’t they awesome?  We haven’t had one of those around in a while.  That changes next weekend with The Boxtrolls, a stop-go animated flick from the people that gave us ParaNorman.  It opens wide on Friday as does Denzel Washington’s dumb-fun action fest The Equalizer, which received dreadful reviews at the Toronto Film Festival this year but might just be a critic-proof release.


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