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Box Office: ‘Maze Runner’ Outpaces Liam Neeson on Way to $31 Million Debut

YA adaptation “The Maze Runner” has far outpaced the Liam Neeson-starrer “Walk Among the Tombstones.”

The Maze Runner” opened to $11.3 million Stateside on Friday. Fox’s dystopian drama is on track for a higher-than-anticipated $31 million weekend debut – double the expected earnings for the runner-up, “Walk Among the Tombstones.”

Based on the first book in James Dashner’s trilogy of the same name, the $34 million production follows a group of teenage boys (and one girl) who are trapped in a maze. The young cast is led by “Teen Wolf” star Dylan O’Brien, whose character comes up with a strategy to escape their prison.

Fox hopes to appeal to the young-adult audience that turned “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Divergent” into thriving franchises.

Universal’s crime thriller “Walk Among the Tombstones” launched to $4.7 million on its way to a $14 million weekend, which is below forecast. Neeson’s most recent movie, “Non-Stop” (also from Universal), opened to $28.9 million in March on its way to $202.4 million worldwide.

And although the subject matter of an ex-detective investigating a series of kidnappings is similar to the action star’s “Taken” series, “Tombstones” won’t come close to reaching the opening numbers for those movies. “Taken 2” debuted to $49.5 million in 2012 (hauling $376.1 million worldwide), while “Taken” launched to a much lower $24.7 million four years earlier (grossing $226.8 million worldwide).

“Walk Among the Tombstones” carries a $28 million production budget.

Both newcomers received a decent critical response, with “Maze” earning a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and “Tombstones” earning 66%.

Another new release, the star-studded “This Is Where I Leave You,” came in third on Friday with $3.9 million. Warner Bros.’ dramedy is on its way to an $11 million debut.

Based on Jonathon Tropper’s best-seller, “This Is Where I Leave You” is a fairly low-risk studio commitment, considering its $20 million production cost. The pic stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda as a family that’s brought together following the death of the patriarch.

Two holdovers rounded out the top five on Friday.

Last week’s winner, “No Good Deed,” came in fourth with $3 million as it headed for a $9 million to $9.5 million weekend, which would raise its cume to over $39 million.

WB’s second weekend of Alcon’s “Doplhin Tale 2” finished fifth with $2.1 million en route to an almost $9 million second frame. The pic stands to earn more than $26 by weekend’s end.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” dropped to sixth with $1.4 million on Friday. It stands to gross $5 million by Sunday, which would raise its impressive eight-week cume to over $313 million — the highest U.S. gross of the year.

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