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Box Office: ‘Equalizer 2’ Narrowly Edges Past ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ to Land at No. 1

In a twist straight out of a movie, “The Equalizer 2” shot past “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” to steal the box office crown.

Going into the weekend, it looked like “Mamma Mia! 2” would easily debut at No. 1. Final numbers won’t come in until Monday, but weekend estimates show Sony’s “The Equalizer” sequel opened above estimates with $35.8 million when it launched in 3,388 locations, while Universal’s highly anticipated follow-up to “Mamma Mia!” debuted with $34.4 million from 3,317 screens.

“Equalizer 2,” the first sequel of Denzel Washington’s nearly four-decade long career, debuted overseas with $3.3 million in 11 international territories. In North America, “Equalizer 2” premiered ahead of its predecessor. 2014’s “The Equalizer” opened with $35 million and went on to generate $192 million worldwide, including $101 million domestically.

“It was a surprise to come in at No 1. in an extremely competitive marketplace,” Adrian Smith, Sony’s head of domestic distribution, said. “It really speaks to the power of Denzel, without a doubt. We expect it to play to a great multiple.”

Antoine Fuqua returned to direct “The Equalizer 2,” which also stars Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman. Though it got a head start on the original film at the box office, reception has been less enthusiastic for the sequel, which currently holds a tepid 50% average on Rotten Tomatoes. Its CinemaScore, however, sits at an A.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” couldn’t dance its way to the top of the domestic box office, but its $34 million opening is still a win. The original “Mamma Mia!” hit theaters a decade ago with $27 million. It became a box office hit, amassing $615 million worldwide on a $52 million budget. Much like the first film, the sequel will likely be a smash overseas, where Swedish pop group ABBA has a huge following. This weekend, it launched internationally with $42.4 million when it opened in 42 markets.

“The results from audiences has really been electric,” Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution said. “There was a pent-up wait to see this after the first film generated such goodwill.”

Aside from “Ocean’s 8” and “Book Club,” few offerings this summer have targeted female audiences. Orr said that, along with overseas appeal, should give the jukebox musical long legs at the box office.

Much of the star-studded cast — including Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Dominic Cooper — returned for the second film. Lily James made her debut as the younger version of Meryl Streep’s charming and carefree Donna, while living legend Cher also joined the cast. Ol Parker, the screenwriter behind “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” took over directing duties and penned the script.

The final wide release of the weekend, BH Tilt’s “Unfriended: Dark Web,” got off to a scary start. The low-budget horror film debuted way below projections with $3.5 million from 1,546 locations. That might not matter, considering the Blumhouse title carries a $1 million price tag. “Dark Web” is a standalone sequel to 2015’s “Unfriended.” That film became a cash cow, opening with $15 million and going on to earn $64 million from a $1 million budget.

“The Grudge” and “Texas Chainsaw 3D” writer Stephen Susco made his directorial debut with “Dark Web,” which features Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, and Andrew Lees. 

Among holdovers, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” nabbed third place during its second outing. Sony’s animated sequel picked up another $23 million from 4,267 locations, bringing its domestic tally to $91 million. It has made $115 million internationally, including $37.7 million this weekend.

In fourth, Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” pocketed $16 million from 3,778 screens in its third frame. In total, the Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily-led superhero blockbuster has made $165 million in North America. Globally, the Marvel title has crossed $353.5 million.

Disney-Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” rounded out the top five with $11.5 million. In six weeks, the animated sequel has earned a massive $557 million in North America and $940 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson’s “Skyscraper” continues to struggle in North America. Universal’s action adventure dropped 56% in its sophomore weekend, collecting $11 million in 3,822 locations. The studio is hoping for massive returns internationally given the film’s  estimated $125 million budget. It bowed in China with $45 million, taking its weekend total to $86 million. So far, “Skyscraper” has made $176.8 million globally.

At the specialty box office, Lionsgate’s “Blindspotting” bowed with $332,500 when it opened in 14 theaters. That’s a solid per-screen-average of $23,750. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in “Blindspotting, which debuted to raves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Bleecker Street’s “McQueen,” a documentary chronicling the life of iconic fashion designer Alexander McQueen, landed the top theater average of the weekend with $24,232. It scored $96,928 when it opened in four theaters.

Another new offering, Amazon Studios’ “Generation Wealth,” bowed on four screens with $33,602 for a per-theater-average of $8,401.

A24’s “Eighth Grade” continued to receive high marks in its second frame. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut continued its rollout to 32 locations, where it earned $794,000 — averaging $24,072 per screen.

Elsewhere, documentaries have continued their hot streak. Neon’s “Three Identical Strangers” brought in another $1.4 million. In four weeks, the acclaimed doc has earned $4.3 million. Focus Features’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” has now surpassed $18.4 million, including $1.3 million this weekend. Magnolia and Participant’s “RBG” has crossed $13 million, picking up $168,000 in its 12th frame, while Roadside Attraction’s “Whitney” made $118,470, taking its total to $2.8 million.

Annapurna’s “Sorry to Bother You” cracked the top 10 domestically with $2.8 million when it expanded to 1,050 locations. In total, Boots Riley’s dark comedy has collected $10.3 million.

Other holdovers include Amazon Studios’ “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” ($265,360 from 62 screens) and Bleecker Street’s “Leave No Trace” ($891,545 from 361 locations).

The summer box office is up a healthy 10.5% compared to 2017, according to comScore. The year-to-date total is also at an uptick, crossing $7 billion half way through 2018.

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