Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: Why Didn’t Scorch Trials Top the First Maze Runner?

It’s only a difference of just over $2.3m, but Maze Runner: Scorch Trials did fall short of the first Maze Runner‘s opening weekend.  That might seem insignificant, but it proved pretty significant in the long run for Divergent and Insurgent.  So, what exactly happened here?

This Weekend’s Actual Box Office Top 10 Totals (9/18-9/20)

1 – Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Worldwide Debut)               

  • Production Budget=$61m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$30.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$43.3m
  • Domestic Debut=$73.6m

Last year, Fox waited just two days into The Maze Runner’s opening weekend to greenlight The Scorch Trials to come out pretty much one year later.  Proud of Maze Runner’s $32.5m debut, the sixth biggest in September history at that point, Fox boasted to 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.”  YA adaptations weren’t supposed to come out in September, a time when its target audience is in school, but 2014 was a year in which traditional release slots were consistently defied (see: Captain America: The Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

By contrast, The Scorch Trials didn’t exactly sneak up and surprise anyone the way Maze Runner did last year. Instead, The Scorch Trials just about equaled Maze Runner’s opening weekend, falling $2.3m short the same way Insurgent was $2.4 short of Divergent’s opening. That didn’t work out so well for Insurgent, which, ahem, diverged from Divergent’s box office glory and finished with just $130m domestic after its predecessor had amassed over $150m.

The first Maze Runner had some serious legs, tripling its opening weekend across the rest of its theatrical run to end up with $102m domestic. It was an even bigger deal overseas, particularly in China, pushing its international/worldwide slash to $238m/$340m. Based on that kind of word of mouth, it is a tad surprising to see Scorch Trials simply repeating franchise standards instead of actually growing its audience.

What happened?

One possible reason is that waiting a year in-between movies does not allow enough time for word-of-mouth to really spread via home video and cable the way it has for franchise which wait at least 2 years in-between sequels. Another reason might be that Scorch Trials simply isn’t as good as the first Maze Runner.  That’s not just my own persona opinion, though.  It seems to be the consensus from the reviews, if you go by RottenTomatoes.  Regardless of quality, Scorch Trials is also a completely different kind of film, steering the franchise toward the horror genre and seriously pushing the boundaries of a PG-13 rating. Lastly, with the decline in box office from Divergent to Insurgent and Catching Fire to Mockingjay Part 1 there might be slight YA fatigue setting in, at least fatigue for the YA dystopia stories.

Perhaps it’s for the best that Fox is breaking from precedent and releasing the third Maze Runner movie in February 2017 instead of rubber-stamping it to come out at this time next year.

2 – Black Mass (Worldwide Debut)Johnny Depp Films A Violent Scene For 'Black Mass'                                                                                                                                         

  • Production Budget=$53m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$22.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic Debut=$23.2m

A Whitey Bulger biopic, Black Mass is a potential awards contenders with mass appeal , but movies like this which open in September are difficult to judge. They all tend to open in the $20m-$30m range, and can ride word-of-mouth to a lengthy run. Then again, they can also more or less grab the majority of their money in the first 3 weeks. For example, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prisoners opened to $20m across this same weekend two years ago, and it ultimately topped out at $61m domestic/$122m worldwide. However, three years prior to that Ben Affleck’s The Town opened to $23m and made it all the way to $92m domestic/$154m. Not to be too simplistic about it since there are other variables at play, but it ultimately comes down to word-of-mouth and Black Mass’ B CinemaScore and 76% RottenTomatoes rating seems more Prisoners than Town.

Regardless of how this plays out, it’s already a bigger success than the abject failure of Johnny Depp’s last movie, Mortdecai, which only made $7.6m this past January.

3 – The VisitThe Visit


  • Production Budget=$5m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$11.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$2.4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$42.5m/$7.9m/$50.2m

You should know the trick by now. The Visit is a horror movie. This is its second weekend meaning it’s time for a game of: How – Far – Did – It – Fall?

Just 54%. As far as horror movies go, that seems slightly better than the going average these days. The past two horror movies to use the found footage format like The Visit declined 59% (The Gallows) and 55% (As Above/So Below) respectively.

4 – The Perfect Guy        

  • Production Budget=$12m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$9.7m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
  • Domestic Total=$41.4m

This is a 63% decline from The Perfect Guy’s big debut, which is not all that surprising. Films with primarily African-American casts that are primarily marketed to African-American audiences quite often perform like horror movies with big openings followed by steep declines. However, they are surely made with that business model in mind, and The Perfect Guy is already a success relative to its budget. It’s not quite the hit that Taraji P. Henson/Idris Elba’s No Good Deed was at this same exact time last year.

5 – Everest (Worldwide Debut)


  • Production Budget=$55m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$7.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$28.8m
  • Worldwide Debut=$36m

It means next to nothing to brag about Everest more than doubling The Equalizer’s $3.1m, the previous September opening weekend record for IMAX, because The Equalizer also opened in non-IMAX theaters and made around $29m from those. Everest is just playing in IMAX after Universal made the near-unprecedented choice to exclusively open Everest in 545 IMAX theaters this weekend before going wide next weekend.   The only other comparison might be Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which pulled it off in mid-December 2011, grossing $12.7m from just 425 theaters, but Everest and Ghost Protocol exist in different genres. One is simply a movie whereas the other is the fourth installment in a long-running film franchise. As such, what Universal is doing with Everest is really more of an experiment to see if more movies tailor-made for IMAX presentation might be released like this in the future, and Sony plans on doing the same thing with The Walk later this month.

6 – War Room

  • Production Budget=$3m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$49m/$2m/$51m

Ministers-turned-filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s War Movie is easily a career-best at the box office, topping 2011’s Courageous ($34.5m). Next up for them is some time off, specifically a full year to spend time with family and congregation before moving on to their next film. As Alex told THR, “We want to tell a story that is very uniting. If people leave with a thirst and a hunger to prayer more, then that is success for us.”

7 – A Walk in the Woods

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.8m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$24.8m/$1.9m/$26.7m

Kudos to Broad Green Pictures. The brand new distributor with only 3 prior movies successfully identified an opening in the August/September release calendar where an older-skewing movie like Walk in the Woods could carve out a nice piece of the box office for itself.

8 – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

  • Production Budget=$150m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$21.2m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$191.6m/$464.7m/$656.3m

How does Rogue Nation stack up against Ghost Protocol at this point? It still trails in all categories. Ghost Protocol finished with $209m domestic/$485m foreign/$694m worldwide, but Rogue Nation could top the foreign and worldwide marks.

9 – Straight Outta ComptonStraight_Outta_Compton-620x412

  • Production Budget=$28m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.9m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$3.8m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$158.8m/$30.1m/$188.9m

10 – GrandmaGrandma_for-oldies


  • Production Budget=$600K
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
  • Domestic Total =$3.6m

Sony Classics added 931 new theaters this weekend to up Grandma’s total to 1,061 thus making this the film’s first weekend of wide release. It stars Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner as a mourning grandma and troubled granddaughter who go on a road trip together.

What Left the Top 10?:

  • No Escape – Current total: $26.2m domestic on a $5m budget
  • The Transporter Refueled – Current total: $15.3m domestic on a $22m budget
  • 90 Minutes in Heaven Current total: $3.7m domestic on a $5m budget
  • Un Gallo con Muchos HuevosCurrent total: $8.2m domestic on a $5.3m budget

What’s Up Next?: Hotel Transylvania 2, The Intern and The Green Inferno


  1. What is really interesting for me is the development of The Visit. Initially nearly hailed as “comeback”, over the weekend it fell down to 58% at Rotten Tomatoes…meaning it is, at least for the moment, considered “rotten”.

    1. Critically and financially, The Visit appears to be performing at maybe a slightly better than average pace for a Blumhouse Productions movie. M. Night Shyamalan’s name is the main thing that makes it stand out, and in terms of overall box office this is nothing compared to the type of money his last movie made, After Earth. But obviously the budgets for the two projects are massively different, and M. Night apparently heavily invested into getting The Visit produced. It’s not the great comeback we were promised, but it might be enough to get him out of director’s jail in Hollywood…or simply sets him up to make something with a moderately bigger budget next time.

  2. Here comes my complicated thoughts and opinions on the Scorch Trials. Personally, I really enjoyed the movie. It was not as good as the first, but it was very entertaining and different. What I think the movie faced was a bunch of issues. One to many people it was another installment in what was previously established as a YA dystopian (something people are already against). The Scorch Trials (from now on referred to as ST) was not dystopian but established an apocalyptic world and had large sections that would be considered as nothing else but horror. I wouldn’t be surprised at learning that the movie contained horror elements, or some reviews that straight said they are zombie like creatures will turn people off too. And honestly ST did have more edge than it’s predecessor. Add in the fact that apparently the movie is very different than the book may turn some loyalists away as well. Also being a sequel means it loses the surprise “Wow this movie you’ve never heard of is pretty good, you should go check it out.” Whether ST wanted it or not there were expectations that were built and the movie largely deviated.

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