Denzel Propels Equalizer to Top of Weekend Box Office
By John Hamann
September 28, 2014
Mr. Predictable, Denzel Washington, is at the top of the box office again with the Equalizer, his second consecutive film to open at number one after the actor saw four consecutive second place finishes.
Over the past two weekends there were seven new openers. There were only two this weekend, as studios made a little room for the most consistent star in Hollywood. Washington opened The Equalizer, a film based on the 1980s TV series starring Edward Woodward. The filmmakers left the TV series behind and turned The Equalizer into a violent, R-rated vengeance flick co-starring Chloe Grace Moretz. Audiences responded. Also opening this weekend was Laika’s The Boxtrolls, a stop-motion animated flick from the people who brought you the awesome Coraline and the under-appreciated Corpse Bride and ParaNorman. These are films that some consider too dark for kids, so Focus Features and Laika needed to open Boxtrolls decently, although they wouldn't necessarily expect a breakout performance.
The Equalizer got started with an impressive (but expected) $1.5 million from Thursday night previews, which was almost a sure indication that Washington’s opening weekend streak of eleven $20 million openers was sure to continue (I don’t count 2007’s The Great Debaters, as it was exhibited on only 1,171 screens). That winning streak goes all the way back to 2003’s Out of Time, which still opened solidly with $16.2 million. The model of consistency, Denzel Washington may not be Hollywood’s biggest draw, but he certainly is reliable – even in September. The Friday amount (combined with Thursday previews) came in at $12.6 million, more than the $10 million that 2 Guns did but less than the $13.6 million of Safe House, which went on to have a $40.1 million opening weekend. Anything over $10 million was going to be good news for Sony’s Columbia Pictures, as The Equalizer cost only $55 million to make.
The Equalizer then did the expected over the remaining portion of the weekend, and finished the frame with an impressive $35 million from 3,236 venues, giving it an average of $10,816. The Equalizer wasn’t even the widest release of the weekend, as its venue count was only the fourth highest, behind The Maze Runner, The Boxtrolls, and Dolphin Tale 2. For Washington, anything over $30 million is a strong result for the star. The majority of his films throughout his career have debuted between $20 and $25 million. He has only had three films – Safe House, American Gangster, and The Book of Eli - open beyond $30 million, with the first two of those earning over $40 million in their first weekend. The Equalizer, which joins that club, is also another film from Denzel made for adults – the star’s top nine opening films are all rated R, with the only PG-13 rated film being Unstoppable, which started with $22.7 million.
The Equalizer now poses an interesting question for Washington, as this could be his first franchise should he choose to go in that direction. Despite starring in 43 films since breaking into the scene in the early '80s, Washington has never appeared in a sequel, despite almost half of those releases earning $50 million or more, and 14 earning $70 million or more. The Equalizer might be a good choice for the actor, as production costs were low at $55 million, and it should easily go on to earn $100 million plus, given the A- Cinemascore it received. The Equalizer had more positive than negative reviews at RottenTomatoes (58% fresh), so this may be a good franchise choice. Normally, Washington's films earn more in North America than they do abroad, but this one could change that dynamic and lead to a roman numeral somewhere in its future.