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Box Office: ‘Maze Runner’ Flying By Liam Neeson for $24 Million Opening

Fox’s dystopian “The Maze Runner” is leaving rivals in the dust as it heads for an opening weekend of about $24 million in the U.S., early estimates showed.

The young-adult vehicle was dominating moviegoing Friday with a forecast of $9 million to $10 million at 3,604 locations, including $1.1 million from late Thursday screenings.

The futuristic saga had been tracking somewhat higher earlier in the week with Fox indicating it expected a launch weekend in the high $20 million range. Instead, “Maze Runner” looks likely to come in the vicinity of last weekend’s leader, Sony’s “No Good Deed,” which opened at $24.5 million.

Fox had deployed the young cast, led by Dylan O’Brien of “Teen Wolf,” on an active promo campaign for “Maze Runner” to tap into the fickle young-adult audience that turned “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” into successful franchises.

Based on James Dashner’s novel, the $34 million tale of teens stuck in a maze and pursed by monsters received a decent critical reception with a 63% “fresh” rating from the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator site.

“The Maze Runner” took in nearly double the opening day of Universal’s launch of Liam Neeson’s crime thriller “Walk Among the Tombstones,” which was showing moderate life with $5.8 million at 2,712 sites. “Tombstones,” which received a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, should finish the frame between $15 million and $17 million.

“Tombstones” may be excluding younger fans thanks to its R-rating. It’s unlikely that it will peform as well as Neeson’s most recent title, the PG-13 rated “Non-Stop,”  which opened in March with a $28.9 million weekend on its way to a U.S. cume of $92 million for Universal.

Warner Bros.’ first day of drama-comedy “This Is Where I Leave You” was showing slightly less traction with a $5 million opening day. The ensemble project, starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda, looked likely to finish third with $12 million to $14 million.

Based on the Jonathon Tropper novel, “This Is Where I Leave You” is a relatively low-risk propostion for Warner Bros., given its $20 million production cost. But its tepid performance underlines the lack of a recent hit at the studio, which is facing up to 1,000 job cuts in the next month or two.

“No Good Deed” led the holdovers Friday with $2.8 million, which should give the thriller about $9 million in its second weekend and a $39 million cume.

Warner’s second weekend of Alcon’s “Doplhin Tale 2” looked likely to finish fifth with about $8.6 million for a 10-day total of about $27 million.

A24’s limited launch of Kevin Smith’s offbeat horror film “Tusk,” centered on a podcaster turned into a walrus, was headed for about $1 million on about 600 screens.

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