‘Maze Runner’ Leads Box Office Revival

The teenage dystopian drama The Maze Runner topped the weekend box office with a $32.5 million bow, easily eclipsing fellow newcomers A Walk Among the Tombstones, and This Is Where I Leave You.  Together the troika of new arrivals pushed the total of the top twelve films to a 25% gain over the same frame last year when the drama Prisoners opened with $20.8 million.  Debuting in 602 theaters Kevin Smith’s horror film Tusks could muster only $886,000 and debuted at #14.
The latest in a burgeoning series of teen dystopian dramas, The Maze Runner differs from its predecessors in that its hero is a boy, one of a group of teen boys stranded on island in the center of a giant maze.  While The Maze Runner’s $32.5 million bow is a solid start for the $30 million film (MGM immediately announced a date for a sequel), it pales in comparison to the March opening of Divergent ($54.6 million) starring Shailene Woodley, to say nothing of the mammoth bows of The Hunger Games films ($152 million and $158 million).  Obviously the teen dystopian genre is predisposed to favor female leads, and even in The Maze Runner, which has only one key female role, females made up 52% of the debut weekend audience.  The 48% male share was a new high for the genre and with 65% of the crowd under 25, Hollywood found a way to reach the difficult young male demo and the film’s “A-“ CinemaScore indicates that it could be around for quite a while.  The Maze Runner attracted an audience that was 52% Caucasian, 19% Hispanic, 15% African-American, and 14% Asian.
Liam Neeson stars in the “R” rated hard-boiled private eye drama A Walk Among the Tombstones, and at first glance the film’s $13.1 million opening would appear to be a major disappointment in view of Non-Stop’s $28.9 million bow earlier this year, but making a film of Lawrence Block’s PI novel was something that Neeson wanted to do.  Even if A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t show great “legs” (and it will face direct competition next weekend when The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington debuts), the movie will play forever on TV.  As might be expected it attracted an older crowd (77% over 25) that was evenly gender-balanced (51% female), 52% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic, 14% African-American, and 9% Asian.
In third place was another “personal project,” director Shawn Levy’s This Where I Leave You, a dramatic comedy about four siblings who reunite when they return to the family home to sit shivah after the death of their father.  The movie’s opening weekend total was a far cry from that of Levy’s big crowd-pleasing comedies like A Night in the Museum, but This Is Where I Leave You cost just $20 million to make, and has only modest expectations at the box office in spite of a stellar cast including Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, and Rose Byrne.  This Is Where I Leave You skewed female (63%) older, with 86% of the opening weekend crowd over 25.
Last week’s winner, the home invasion thriller No Good Deed fell to #4 as it dropped 58%, while A Dolphin Tale 2, which also debuted last week, showed good legs, dropping 43% to finish in fifth place and bring its domestic cumulative to $27.1 million.
James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy dropped just 35% as it added $5.2 million bringing its 2014-leading domestic total to $313.7 million.  Guardians, which has earned enough overseas to push its worldwide total to $632 million, has now eclipsed Iron Man 2’s domestic ($312 million) and foreign totals ($623 million).  Next up will be the original Iron Man’s $318 million domestic total.  Fellow comic book property The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also continues to do well domestically as the Michael Bay-produced film ran its total to $185 million.
Kevin Smith’s horror film Tusks, which opened in 602 theaters, could muster only $886,000 for a very poor $1,472 per venue average.   This poor showing will only accelerate the trend of B-budget modern horror films going directly to VOD (and disc).  With a nearly non-existent marketing campaign, the fate of Tusks was probably to be expected, but it is unfortunate nonetheless.
Be sure to check back here next week to see if the action film adaptation of the old CBS TV series The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, or Laika’s stop-animated feature The Boxtrolls, can dislodge The Maze Runner from the top spot.

Tom Flinn

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