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‘Maze Runner’ Buries ‘Tombstones’ and Laughs Off ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ at Friday Box Office

Fox’s young adult thriller starring Dylan O’Brien heads for franchise-launching $30 million weekend after date night-driven $11 million first day

The young adult adaptation “The Maze Runner” dominated in its first day at the box office Friday, taking in $11.2 million and easily outstripping two other wide openers, Liam Neeson‘s “A Walk Among the Tombstones” and the comedy “This Is Where I Leave You.”

That puts Fox’s sci-fi thriller based on James Dashner’s novels and starring TV’s “Teen Wolf” star Dylan O’Brien on course for a first weekend in the $30 million range, in line with analysts’ expectations and a little better than the studio had projected.

Universal’s thriller “Tombstone” is heading for a $14 million debut after a $4.7 million Friday, while Warner Bros.’ modestly budgeted ensemble family comedy “This Is Where I Leave You” brought in $3.9 million and is looking at an $11 million first weekend. Both of those are at the lower end of expectations.

Last week’s No. 1 movie, Sony’s Idris Elba-Taraji P. Henson thriller “No Good Deed,” was fourth with $2.9 million and is looking at a $9 million second weekend.

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Unlike most YA movies, “Maze Runner” has a male star. That gives it more potential to play well with both genders, and the Friday numbers suggest it was a big date night choice. The fact that it was in a healthy 3,604 theaters — including a full run of IMAX and Premium Large Format locations — had to help, too. Opening night audiences gave it an “A-” CinemaScore; it’s at 62 percent positive on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

The first day for “Maze Runner” is better than $9.8 million that “Ender’s Game,” another YA adaptation with a male protagonist, managed on its way to a $27 million opening in November. But it’s not close to the first days of the biggest young adult hits, which are based on franchises that sold far more books and launched in March, typically a more favorable release corridor. It’s roughly half of what “Divergent” brought in on its first day as it headed to a $54 million first weekend earlier this year, and nowhere near the $67 million first day that the original “The Hunger Games” had on its way to a $152 million debut in 2012.

However, if the weekend continues on this course it will be a big win for Fox, which is hoping to launch a franchise with “Maze Runner,” which was produced for $34 million. A $30 million first weekend and a solid showing overseas would almost certainly enable the studio to be the first to kick off YA franchise in September, traditionally one of the slowest months of the year.

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Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter co-star in “The Maze Runner,” which is directed by Wes Ball and produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey (“The Fault in Our Stars”), along with Ellen Goldsmith Vein and her Gotham Group, which developed the project.

Written and directed by Scott Frank, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is based on a Lawrence Block novel and has Neeson playing an ex-cop lured out of retirement to help a drug dealer find his kidnapped wife.

It’s not going to match other recent outings from Neeson — “Non-Stop” opened to $28 million in February for Universal — in part because it has an R-rating, a darker tone and is facing some stiff competition. The profitability bar is lower because its price tag is $23 million, however. It was produced by Jersey Films’ Danny DeVito, Double Feature Films’ Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, Exclusive Media’s Tobin Armbrust and Cross Creek Pictures’ Brian Oliver.

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“Tombstones” is in 2,713 theaters for Universal, which is distributing in the U.S. only, with Entertainment One handling Canada.

The “B+” CinemaScore awarded by first-night audiences is good news for “This Is Where I Leave You,” which targets mature moviegoers and hopes to build an audience via word of mouth over the next few weeks.

Shawn Levy directs the $20 million ensemble comedy which stars Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Rose Byrne, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. Jonathan Tropper wrote the novel upon which the film is based and the screenplay, which follows four squabbling siblings who reunite at their childhood home after their father dies. It’s in 2,868 theaters.

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Writer-director Kevin Smith’s quirky horror tale “Tusk” opened in 602 theaters and brought in $379,000 Friday. That puts it on course to take in roughly $1 million for distributor A24 Releasing.

The overall box-office weekend is pacing roughly 20 percent ahead of the comparable frame last year, when “Prisoners” finished No. 1 with $20 million.