Before Midnight

'Purge' actor scores biggest-ever opening, beating 2001's 'Training Day'

Ethan Hawke. Welcome back, sir.

After several years of roles in mostly genre or small independent films, Hawke scored his biggest opening weekend ever, with Universal’s “The Purge” grossing a boffo estimated $36.4 million. That well surpasses the actor’s previous best Stateside opening, 2001’s “Training Day,” with $22.6 million.

Meanwhile, Hawke is also luring the artfilm crowd for “Before Midnight,” the third installment in Richard Linklater’s romantic series co-starring Julie Delpy, which has cumed more than $1.5 million in three weeks. “Before Midnight” expanded via Sony Pictures Classics to 52 theaters this weekend.

“The Purge,” which cost just $3 million to produce from Blumhouse Productions, stars Hawke as a father desperately trying to protect his family during a 12-hour period in which all crime is legal. Lena Headey co-stars as his wife.

The film received a summer berth that was meant to capitalize on a drought of horror films recently. In turn, the date gave Hawke increased exposure — more so than either of his last two horror films, “Sinister” and “Daybreakers,” which bowed in October and January, respectively. Yet, those dates still are proven territory for horror films.

Interestingly, a comparison could be made between “The Purge” and another Universal film, “Oblivion,” which launched in April and is also based on an original concept. That film, however, which saw nearly the same opening as “The Purge” (at $37 million), had an infinitely more high-powered star, Tom Cruise.

Universal ultimately sold both films based on their concepts and less so on the stars. Still, the comparable openings between the two films paint a compelling picture of the sort of box office pull (or lack thereof) movie stars have nowadays. (Just consider Will Smith in last weekend’s “After Earth” Stateside disaster.)

“Oblivion” will top out at around $90 million domestically. “Purge,” on the other hand, likely will gross $70 million-$75 million, based on how horror films generally play.

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