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‘Maze Runner’ on Track for $30 Million Opening

The Fault in Our Stars” producers could have another hit on their hands this summer — and this time, the boys may join in.

Fox’s “The Maze Runner,” based on the book by James Dashner, is on track for a $30 million opening when it bows on Sept. 19.

That’s quite an impressive feat — not just because the U.S. box office is having its worst summer in nearly a decade, but also because both males and females are saying they will buy tickets, which is unusual for a YA book adaptation. Even action-driven projects like “The Hunger Games” started out with women outpacing men in desire to see the film. And while the “Maze Runner” books are nowhere near as popular as “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight,” appealing to both genders could help the studio launch a movie franchise with the story of a boy whose memory is erased and must try to escape from a maze in which he finds himself trapped.

The studio recently asked “Maze Runner” screenwriter T.S. Nolan to work on a script for the second book in the trilogy, “The Scorch Trials,” but that will, of course, depend on box office results.

“It’s a good start and it’s impressive,” analyst Hal Vogel said of the sci-fi thriller’s early tracking.

Directed by f/x artist Wes Ball and starring “Teen Wolf” actor Dylan O’Brien, the $30 million-budgeted project is currently a “first choice” among men under the age of 25, offering a sci-fi storyline with potential male appeal. Yet the film has largely been promoted toward young women in recent weeks, with ads on ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and stories on gossip sites like Just Jared. O’Brien is a favorite hunk among teen girls, making it easier for Fox to appeal to both sexes.

As Hollywood learned the hard way with recent YA adaptations like “The Giver,” “Beautiful Creatures” and “Mortal Instruments,” not all movie versions of popular novels strike gold at the box office, so it’s critical for lesser-known properties to cast a wider net to young audiences.

After the $280 million grossing worldwide success of “The Fault in Our Stars,” producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are trying to capitalize on more books with youthful appeal after “The Maze Runner.” Their company, Temple Hill Entertainment, is working on adaptations including Ava Dellaira’s debut novel “Love Letters to the Dead” and Nicholas Sparks’ “The Longest Ride.”

“We’re snatching up a lot of books,” Godfrey recently told Variety.

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