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Box Office: ‘The Equalizer’ Debuts to Smashing $35 Million

Denzel Washington and “The Equalizer” were number one with a bullet this weekend, as the revenge thriller picked up an impressive $35 million across 3,234 locations.

That figure gave it a comfortable lead over the weekend’s other new wide release, Focus Features’ “The Boxtrolls,” which earned $17.2 million across 3,464 locations, and last week’s champ, “The Maze Runner,” which snagged $17.5 million in its sophomore frame. The young adult thriller has earned $58 million after two weeks in theaters.

The Equalizer,” a gory story of a former special ops agent going toe to toe with the Russian mob, proved to be equally appealing to both genders, with 48% of the opening crowd comprised of females. It also skewed older, with 35% of the opening weekend crowd made up of people under the age of 30. Domestically, the film picked up $3.3 million on 352 IMAX screens, a record September debut for the big screen company.

Sony Pictures and Village Roadshow produced the film for $55 million. “The Equalizer” reunites Washington with Antoine Fuqua, the stylish purveyor of onscreen violence who previously directed the actor to an Oscar in “Training Day.”

It ranks as the third biggest domestic opening of Washington’s career, behind “Safe House” ($40.1 million) and “American Gangster” ($43.6 million), and the fourth biggest September debut of all time. With those kind of numbers, Sony is hoping “The Equalizer” kicks off an action film series pegged at adults.

“I’m pretty confidant there will be a sequel,” said Rory Bruer,  Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution. “From the beginning, as the story began to unfold, it had possible franchise written all over it.”

In addition to Washington and Fuqua’s formidable appeal, the film was bolstered by its inclusion of Eminem’s new single “Guts Over Fear,” which the rapper touted to his 18.7 million Twitter followers and 95 million Facebook fans.

Washington and Sony weren’t the only ones with something to crow about this weekend. “The Boxtrolls” exceeded projections, which had the stop motion animated film opening to $15 million. The film was produced for $60 million and centers on a young girl who befriends a band of underground dwellers.

Timing was everything. “The Boxtrolls” is the first animated film since “Planes: Fire and Rescue” debuted two months ago, and won’t have competition on the family film front until “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” bows on Oct. 10. The next animated picture to hit theaters is “Book of Life” on Oct. 17.

“We’ve got a really nice runway for this thing,” said Jim Orr, president of distribution at Focus Features. “This was the first animated title since July, and that helped, and it’s just a charming film.”

“The Boxtrolls” was created by “Paranorman” and “Coraline” animation studio LAIKA and marks the best debut ever for the company. Perhaps the film’s appeal can be credited in part to a starry voice cast that includes Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Simon Pegg.

“The Equalizer’s” success with adults hurt another action film, Liam Neeson’s “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which plunged 67% to $4.2 million in its second week in theaters. That puts its total at $20.9 million.

Ensemble comedy “This Is Where I Leave You” fared better, dipping a mere 39% in its second weekend to nab fourth place with $7 million. The Warner Bros. release has made $22.6 million stateside.

Rounding out the top five was another Warner Bros. title, “Dolphin Tale 2,” which captured $4.8 million in its third week in theaters. So far, the film has made $33.7 million domestically.

In limited release, CBS Films’ gay and labor rights dramedy “Pride” grossed an estimated $84,791 in six locations across New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The studio plans a deliberately paced expansion in order to build on word-of-mouth and will add a few theaters in the markets where it is currently playing next weekend, before broadening its footprint to include additional cities on Oct. 10.

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