Box Office Preview: ‘The Equalizer’ Will Show Denzel Muscle; ‘The Boxtrolls’ A Welcome Family Entree

Sony and Denzel Washington hope The Equalizer is the beginning of a franchise for them and it could very well be while the stop-motion 3-D animated film The Boxtrolls is a welcome family film during what has been a bit of a dry spell of animated fare so the kids should gobble this one up. It’s going into a the second weekend of The Maze Runner but still these two pics should give a nice one-two punch. So let’s analyze these two films. First of all, The Equalizer: The film, which is opening tonight at 7 PM across the country, is an R-rated drama co-financed and produced by Village Roadshow Pictures which could give the 59 year-old Denzel the same kind of action star franchise status at an older age that Liam Neeson (age 62) has enjoyed in recent years. Dang, these guys are in great shape and still kicking it.

The Equalizer is heavily skewing with African American audiences and is a re-teaming of  the actor with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. Its tracking well with older males although it has dropped a bit from the previous week with younger males; it also shows lower numbers in Unaided Awareness than other new offering this weekend, The Boxtrolls. So, this weekend is a tough one to predict. This will land in one of the highest openers for a September, however.

The highest openers for Denzel movie was in 2007 with American Gangster which opened to $43.5M in November 2007 and Safe House at $40.1M in February 2012. This could land anywhere between mid-to-high $20M and has a shot at $30M+. Sony says the budget on this one is $55M but we we heard that it was around $75M but it got a sizeable tax credit from shooing in Massachusetts which pushed it more in the $61M range. One person with a vested interested said it was more like $58M net. If you add in roughly $80M for marketing and distribution costs for both here and abroad, you have an idea of what the true cost is. There is also said to be high-end participation deals for Denzel and for the filmmakers … perhaps around 25% of the FDG given out.

The key here is that Denzel usually does fairly well overseas … although a caveat: his and Fuqua’s Training Day (Oct. 2001) only made $28.2M overseas. However, in recent years, 2 Guns did $56.3M (in August of 2013) and Safe House (Feb. of 2012) did $81.7M overseas. It will be interesting to see what the late-night grosses are in the morning.

The Boxtrolls from Focus Features is the first animated family offering to come out since How to Train Your Dragon 2 which bowed this past June so the appetite for a new film among kids is surely there. This one should outperform The Dolphin Tale 2 (Geez, one would hope so), and has gotten a nice boost with awareness from its promotional partners. Focus is promoting the film on everything from egg cartons (for Moms) via Great Day Farms, to Sun-Maid Raisins and has a combo meal deal with Hardee’s. They are also doing a tie-in with Langer’s juices and Time-Warner cable.

This Laika film also has a bit of a fan boy component to it, given that they previously produced Coraline and ParaNorman. The Boxtrolls looks to be tracking similarly demographically to ParaNorman which opened to $14M in August of 2012. We think it will do better, given that families have been hungry for a colorful, fun, new animated film. So maybe mid-to-high teens? The family audiences will speak to that and show its strength on Saturday and Sunday. This one opens tonight at 7 PM, too.

Expanding this weekend is Relativity’s Hector And The Search For Happiness which stars Rosamund Pike and Simon Pegg. Lastly, in moderate release (in 178 theaters) will be Mas Negro Que La Noche from Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films.

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