When it comes to the box office, you can take Denzel Washington to the bank. Sony Pictures plans to do just that with the action movie “The Equalizer,” which opens Friday and is the odds-on favorite to win the weekend.
“The Equalizer,” which re-teams the star with his “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua, should come in with a three-day total of around $30 million, say the analysts. The studio is more conservative in its projection, but it should easily top the weekend’s other wide opener, Focus Features’ animated “Boxtrolls,” and the reigning No. 1 film, “The Maze Runner.”
Washington, who earned a Best Actor Oscar for 2001’s “Training Day,” is as reliable as an actor can be in terms of commercial success. His last 10 wide releases have on average opened to $28 million, grossed $86 million domestically and more than $170 million worldwide. His biggest recent hits have been 2012’s “Safe House” and 2007’s “American Gangster,” both gritty and R-rated, like “The Equalizer.” Of his last 10 openers, three debuted at No. 1, four in second and three in third place.
“There aren’t many people you can call movie stars today,” Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap, “but Denzel is definitely one. Even when he’s playing nasty or flawed characters or troubled souls, you find yourself rooting for him. He has a unique screen presence that nearly everyone relates to.”
“The Equalizer” is based on the 1980s TV show that starred Edward Woodward as the title character. Washington plays retired intelligence officer Robert McCall, whose act of kindness toward a young prostitute gets him embroiled with the Russian mob. Chloe Moretz, Oscar winner Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman co-star.
The studio is bullish on the project and in February signed writer Richard Wenk to script a followup film. Of course that will depend on how “The Equalizer” performs, but the indicators look strong, and it’s a good bet Washington will be doing the first sequel of his career.
The primary target for “The Equalizer” is mature action fans, who tend not to be as active as younger moviegoers on social media. That said, its profile is significantly higher than that of the Liam Neeson thriller “A Walk Among Tombstones” days before its opening last weekend; that film opened below expectations and was almost certainly hurt by the looming presence of “The Equalizer.”
Sony marketers have worked to connect “The Equalizer” with a broader and younger demographic, and could get a boost from Eminem. A special trailer was cut featuring his single “Guts Over Fear” and the singer shared it with his 18.7 million Twitter followers and nearly 95 million Facebook fans.
On Wednesday, “The Equalizer” was outpacing advance sales for “Two Guns” and “Safe House,” and director Fuqua’s last movie, “Olympus Has Fallen,” at online ticket broker Fandango at the same point in those films’ sales cycles.
A Columbia Pictures presentation in association with LStar Capital and Village Roadshow Pictures, “The Equalizer” has a $55 million production budget. Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Mace Neufeld and Washington are producers.
Sony will have it in 3,324 theaters.
The PG-rated “The Boxtrolls” is a 3D stop-motion animated comedy from Laika Entertainment, the company behind “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.”
Based on Alan Snow’s novel “Here Be Monsters,” it tells the story of an orphan raised by cave-dwelling, trash-collecting trolls. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi co-direct, with the voices provided by Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Tracy Morgan.
It should get a boost from being the first animated movie in theaters since Disney’s “Planes: Fire and Rescue” in July, and the analysts see a debut in the $15 million range.
That’s about the same range as “ParaNorman,” which debuted to $14 million in August 2012 and went on to take in $56 million domestically and $107 million worldwide. “Coraline” opened to $16.8 million in February 2009 and brought in $75 million domestically and $125 million globally.
The reviews are pretty good (71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and it is pacing significantly ahead of “ParaNorman” on both Twitter and Facebook.
David Bleiman Ichioka and Laika President Travis Knight produced the $60 million film, which Focus will have in a healthy 3,464 theaters.
On the specialty front, CBS Films is rolling out the R-rated comedy drama “Pride” on two theaters in L.A., two in New York and two in San Francisco.
Based on a true story, “Pride” tells the tale of a group of lesbian and gay activists in the U.K. who raised money to help families affected by that country’s 1984 miners strike.
Bill Nighy (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Imelda Staunton and Dominic West star in the film, which is written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus.
“Pride” screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.