Maze Runs Box Office Up From Tombstones of Early September
By John Hamann
September 21, 2014
Two weekends, six wide releases. Finally the stink has come off the box office and we are rolling again. If Seattle can beat Denver on Sunday, all will be right in my world.
Three new releases punctuate the top three this weekend, helping to push the old dusty summer leftovers toward the trash bin (The Giver didn’t deserve to be in the top ten for five weekends, and I won’t even bring up Let’s Be Cops). New movies included The Maze Runner, a YA novel adaptation that actually looks interesting; A Walk Among the Tombstones, a Liam Neeson flick that looks darker than his usual action fare; and This Is Where I Leave You, an ensemble dramedy with a cast that makes it look more like Oscar-bait than a mid-September release. None of them are out and out dogs in the review world, but none saw stellar notices either, so things looked interesting box office-wise heading into the weekend.
The number one film this frame is The Maze Runner, another film pulled from a novel aimed at teenagers, but a little different this time, as this one is more targeted at boys. The Maze Runner got started on Thursday night, when it earned a solid-for-September preview amount of $1.1 million, signaling that it would be the leader throughout the weekend. The Friday number for The Maze Runner came in at about $10.2 million, but with the Thursday amount added, Friday was reported at $11.3 million. The ninth biggest opener in September, Eagle Eye, failed to earn $10 million on opening day, so we know The Maze Runner had a solid September opening just from that stat alone.
The Maze Runner managed an A- Cinemascore, which is solid but not exciting, in line with other YA flicks like If I Stay but better than The Giver, which earned a B+. Reviews were okay, but again not fantastic, and it was able to turn these notices into a weekend take of $32.5 million. This was slightly lower than what tracking was expecting, but a little bit more than what Fox was saying on Thursday, when they indicated they would be happy with anything that started with a "3." Depending on where the actual lands on Monday, The Maze Runner becomes a top six September release ever, ahead of the $30.3 million earned by Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs in 2009, but less than the $33 million earned by Rush Hour way back in 1998.
In my opinion, The Maze Runner worked better than most because it had a premise that audiences could easily understand. This story is about a group of kids that wake up in a dystopian place with no memory and have to battle monsters in a maze. The Hunger Games worked because it was easy to explain – kids battle each other to the death in a dystopian society’s game show. You can’t explain The Giver or something like The Mortal Instruments in a similar way. The marketing for films like this really need to work just to explain the idea. The Maze Runner benefited from the interesting concept, and ends up having a very strong start against a budget of only $34 million, putting Fox in a very good position going forward. The Maze Runner also opened overseas in a few territories already, picking up $8.3 million before it was released stateside. A sequel is already planned, and with the upcoming schedule, The Maze Runner has a good chance at justifying that decision with solid legs.