Box Office: ‘Maze Runner’ Sequel No. 1 With $30.3M; ‘Black Mass’ Scores $23.4M

20 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Maze Runner 2’ edges out Johnny Depp’s ‘Black Mass’ to take top spot.

“The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” edged out Johnny Depp’s “Black Mass” at box office, as the two films split young and old moviegoers in half on the first weekend of the fall movie season. 20th Century Fox’s sequel to “The Maze Runner” earned an estimated $30.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. While that came in slightly below the debut of the 2014 young-adult dystopian sci-fi original, it counted as a win for a movie that cost $61 million to make.

Filmed for $61 million and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the picture bowed in 3,791 locations, receiving intense competition from “Black Mass,” which likely contributed to it failing to match or exceed the $32.5 million debut of its predecessor. “Some people expected more out of the newcomers, but it was still a healthy weekend by September standards,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “There was a lot of diversity, but that can cut both ways. Universal’s “Everest” began its box office climb on Friday with a respectable $2.3 million at 545 premium large-format locations, which should give the mountaineering epic around $7.1 million for the weekend as the studio attempts to build buzz for a wide release next weekend. It follows a similar trajectory to the Divergent series, which dipped slightly from its first installment ($54.6 million) to second (Insurgent, $52.3 million) earlier this year. The movie also won the international box-office contest, earning another $43.3 million from 66 markets for a foreign total of $78 million and early worldwide cume of $108.3 million (it opened a week ago in some territories). Neither have reached the tremendous heights of another post-apocalyptic teen franchise, The Hunger Games, whose three films have amassed nearly $1.2 billion in the USA alone, with a final film out in November.

Should Saturday projections hold, “The Scorch Trials” would finish the weekend slightly below “The Maze Runner,” which debuted to $32.5 million on the same weekend last year. Depp’s widely praised portrayal of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger — which earned strong nods at the Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals — raked in $8.8 million on Friday, Box Office Mojo said, and looks ready to claim between $25 million and $27 million in its opening weekend. Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said that 55 percent of the audience said in exit polls that Depp was their reason for seeing the movie, which features an ensemble including Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch. That puts it in line with other Beantown crime dramas such as “The Departed,” which started with $26 million in 2006 and “The Town,” which kicked off to $23.8 million in 2010. Still, both the Maze and Divergent movies prove “the consistency of the young-adult audience,” says Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior analyst. “They’re not growing at a huge rate, but we’re also not seeing a massive drop-off.” Among such series, “Hunger Games is the granddaddy and these others are profit-making machines that build on that younger audience’s need for more than one franchise.” Meanwhile, Johnny Depp proved he still has mass appeal.

In North America, Scorch Trials over-indexed in cities including Dallas, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland and parts of Canada, including Montreal and Vancouver. Depp was the big attraction, with 55% of audience members reporting that his turn as the sociopathic crime lord with the dead blue eyes was the reason they bought tickets. “Johnny Depp always swings for the fences, and sometimes he strikes out, but this was a grand slam,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “He’s the face of evil.” Then there was Universal’s “Everest,” which opted to give a wide berth to gangster rats and futuristic teens by opening in a special Imax and premium format run. From Warner Bros., Black Mass, starring Depp as Boston’s infamous Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger, is counting on a long run throughout awards season.

With 77% positive reviews on aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com, Mass is the best-reviewed live-action film Depp has headlined since his Tim Burton pairing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 2007 (86%). One question mark is the adult drama’s B CinemaScore; many expected the R-rated title to get a better grade after a whirlwind tour on the fall festival circuit and generally positive reviews from critics. Paramount’s launch of the faith-based thriller “Captive,” starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara, appeared to be showing little traction with $647,000 at 808 theaters on Friday.

It comes in under Depp’s recent openings for 2013’s The Lone Ranger ($29.2 million) and ensemble musical Into the Woods ($31.1 million) last year, but well above his critically panned Mortdecai ($4.2 million) in January. The religious-themed thriller earned just $647,000 in its Friday take, with an estimated opening weekend under $2 million. “Sicario,” however, could be stalking bigger returns. After drumming up awards heat at the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals this past month, the R-rated Mass could find Oscar gold early next year for Depp’s performance, which USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt called one of Depp’s best in his three-decade career. Martin Scorsese’s The Departed opened to $26.9 million in early October 2006 on its way to grossing $132.4 million domestically, while Ben Affleck’s Argo launched to $19.5 million in October 2012 on its way to earning $136 million (both films took home the Oscar for best picture). The harsh narco-terrorist drama starring Emily Blunt scored $133,810 in a six-location release, a good sign for its impending wide release on Oct. 2.

But North American theaters had the distinct feel of fall, with a crowded slate of well-reviewed films — some of them awards hopefuls — opening in more limited release and hoping to build strong word of mouth for longer runs at the multiplex. After a string of misses, Depp “really did need this,” Dergarabedian says. “Mortdecai was a tough beat for (him) and audiences want to see him do his thing, which is showcasing his incredible talents. Universal’s 3-D mountaineering thriller “Everest,” starring Josh Brolin and Jason Clarke, opened with $7.6 million, playing only on 545 IMAX and large-format screens. Overseas, the film is outpacing its predecessor, having earned $78 million after two weeks of release. “We have a very loyal fan base,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “We’ve cultivated it and, if you look at the demographic data, we’ve broadened it.” Despite the success Fox has had with debuting the “Maze Runner” films on this September weekend, the third film in the series, “The Death Cure,” won’t hit theaters until Presidents Day Weekend in 2017.

That left “Captive,” Paramount’s attempt to wrangle the faith-based crowds that lifted “War Room” to box office heights, with roughly $1.4 million after bowing on 806 locations. In the indie world, Bleecker Street debuted “Pawn Sacrifice,” a look a troubled chess great Bobby Fischer, to $206,879 for a per-screen average of $6,269, while Lionsgate got drug war thriller “Sicario” off to a sizzling start of $146,494 from just six engagements.

In milestone news, Sony Pictures/Affirm’s “War Room” became the fifth highest-grossing faith-based film, earning $49.2 million to date, while “Mr. Holmes” with Ian McKellen now ranks as the second highest-grossing film in Roadside Attractions’ history with $17.5 million, behind only “Mud” with $21.6 million. Meanwhile, drug-cartel drama Sicario ignited the specialty box office, wowing with $390,000 in just six theaters and a $65,000 per-theater average — the best of any film in 2015 so far.

Wes Ball returns in the director’s chair, along with actors Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario and Patricia Clarkson. Overall ticket sales rose 9% over the year-ago period when the first “Maze Runner” and Liam Neeson’s “A Walk Among the Tombstones” topped the box office. The $61 million sequel picks up immediately after the events in the first film, as Thomas and his fellow Gladers try to survive the Scorch, a desolate, dangerous landscape, while continuing to battle the W.C.K.D. “The takeaway is that the film came in essentially identical to the first one, which says to me that we have a loyal and consistent fan base,” said Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson, reminding that a third Maze Runner is already dated for Feb. 17, 2017. Placing No. 5, the action-adventure film grossed $7.6 million for a promising location average of $13,867, including $6 million from 366 Imax sites, Imax’s best September opening.

Everest — which, like Black Mass, made its world premiere at the 2015 Venice Film Festival — stars Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal. During the ordeal, Smith turned to Rick Warren’s inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life, for guidance to startling results for both herself and Nichols.

Night Shyamalan’s The Visit placed No. 3 in its second weekend with $11.3 million from 3,148 locations for a domestic total of $42.3 million and falling a respectable 55 percent. Lionsgate launched Sicario in six theaters in New York and Los Angeles, where the movie prospered for a gross of $390,000 and screen average of $65,000, the top showing of the year so far.

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