Box Office: Denzel Washington Powering ‘Equalizer’ Over ‘Boxtrolls’

Denzel Washington may be the most consistent hitter in Hollywood.

The Oscar-winning actor steers clear of blockbuster fare and superhero pics, but his name above the title is gold when it comes to bringing in adult crowds to his thrillers and dramas. His latest, “The Equalizer,” hits theaters this weekend and should bring in between $28 million and $30 million. Produced by Sony Pictures and Village Roadshow for $55 million, “The Equalizer” will unspool across 3,234 locations. The studio says it will be happy with a debut in the mid-to-high $20 million range.

Denzel Washington doesn’t miss,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “He’s one of the last foolproof actors working. He hasn’t really had any bombs.”

Indeed, no film starring Washington has opened to less than $20 million since 2003’s “Out of Time.” Over the course of his career, his films have brought in an impressive $2.1 billion, in addition to a pair of Academy Awards. Washington has gotten there without the benefit of a franchise.

Sony hopes that’s about to change and that the film will spark a new action series. “The Equalizer” reunites the “Training Day” team of Washington and director Antoine Fuqua, which will help stoke audience enthusiasm. The gritty, hard-R thriller is a very loose adaptation of the CBS show about an urbane crime-fighting Brit — it keeps the vigilantism and special ops past and ups the violence. It pits Robert McCall (Washington) against Russian mobsters with a propensity for tattooing and brutality. Come for Washington, stick around to discover creative and violent uses for power drills and corkscrews.

“The Equalizer” will head off against another wide release aimed at a very different audience, “The Boxtrolls.” The stop-motion animated film arrives courtesy of Laika, the Oregon-based creators of “Paranorman” and “Coraline.” Focus Features is distributing the films across 3,464 locations in 3D and 2D and should pick up between $15 million and $16 million. The film centers on a young boy raised by trolls and features the voices of Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Tracy Morgan.

Analysts say there’s a cap to the number of tickets this kind of animated feature can sell, noting that films such as “Coraline” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are more specialty attractions than broad crowd-pleasers.

“Fans of stop motion are more cinephiles and that doesn’t always translate into really big box office,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “Even though there hasn’t been a new animated film in the marketplace for two months, there’s a limit to the audience that it can reach.”

Last weekend’s champ “The Maze Runner” should have a respectable hold on audience attention thanks to positive word-of-mouth. In its sophomore weekend, look for the young adult thriller to possibly top “Boxtrolls” with $16 million. Holdovers “This Is Where I Leave You” and “Walk Among the Tombstones” will likely pull in $6 million in their second weekends of release.

Among limited releases, CBS Films will roll out the gay and labor rights dramedy “Pride” in six theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Overall, the domestic box office will have a tough time matching the $108 million racked up over the same weekend in 2013, when “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” bowed to $34 million and “Baggage Claim” and “Don John” also hit theaters. However, analysts say that the range of product coming into theaters is a good sign for a business trying to shake off one of the worst summer box office periods in more than a decade.

“It’s a really diverse lineup and that means a broader range of people will be exposed to trailers and in-theater marketing for upcoming films,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.

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