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‘The Equalizer’ Gunning for Nearly $40 Million at Weekend Box Office

Denzel Washington is dropping the hammer at the U.S. box office. His new action thriller “The Equalizer” is aiming for $37 million this weekend although some observers believe it could hit $40 million.

Based on the 1980s TV show, “The Equalizer” reunites Washington with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua. The R-rated film, according to early estimates, is on track for $14.5 million Friday.

Sony insiders have conservatively pegged the film in the low-$30 million range all week long, but if Friday ticket sales continue to rise, “The Equalizer” will snare the highest opening weekend in September ever for a live-action movie. The current record holder is “Insidious Chapter 2,” which bowed to $40.2 million last year.

It’s a much-welcomed spike for the erratic U.S. box office, not to mention a relief for Sony Pictures, which co-financed the film with Village Roadshow and LStar Capital. Despite mixed reviews, the $55 million “Equalizer” already has a sequel in development as the studio continues to look for future franchise properties.

Co-starring Chloe Moretz, “The Equalizer” is playing in 3,234 locations nationwide.

This weekend’s other wide release, Laika’s stop-motion animated “The Boxtrolls” is expected to draw $17 million through Sunday. It’s a decent showing for the 3D project which is the latest offering from the makers of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman, but with its $60 million budget, “The Boxtrolls” is going to need to be a much broader performance overseas, or at least have longer legs at the U.S. box office, if it wants to turn a profit.

20th Century Fox’s “Maze Runner,” last weekend’s no. 1 film, is expected to drop 50% for a $16 million sophomore hold.

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