Box office preview: Denzel Washington eyes No. 1 with 'The Equalizer' |

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Box office preview: Denzel Washington eyes top spot with 'The Equalizer'


(Scott Garfield)

Denzel Washington is gearing up to show his box office might once more as The Equalizer debuts in 3,234 theaters, including IMAX and other premium large format screens, starting with early Thursday-night showings. The R-rated Columbia Pictures action thriller, which re-teams Washington with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, will easily win the weekend, beating out last week’s champ The Maze Runner and this week’s other new opener, the family-friendly The Boxtrolls.

Here’s how things might play out:

1. The Equalizer $30 million
Denzel Washington plays a former black ops agent who’s attempting to lead a quiet life until he gets entangled in a dangerous situation trying to help a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) with ties to Russian gangsters. Columbia Pictures’ $55 million pic premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to decent reviews and there’s already a sequel in development. Analysts are predicting anywhere from $25 to $30 million+ for opening weekend grosses. It’s currently at a 58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but EW’s Joe McGovern gave it a D, writing: “The plot has been gerrymandered so that we sympathize with the protagonist’s plight no matter how many goons he gores through the chin with a corkscrew. But make no mistake: It’s as challenging as slaughterhouse footage — and about as watchable.”

2. The Maze Runner $17 million
The Maze Runner might not have to contend with a particularly dramatic second weekend drop. The $34 million pic could net out with over $58 million by the weekend’s close.

3. The Boxtrolls $16 million
Laika’s quirky 3D stop-motion animated fantasy about an orphan and the cave-dwelling trolls who raised him features the voices of Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, and Elle Fanning. Rated PG, the pic, launching in 3,464 theaters, will likely open in the range of Laika’s previous efforts Coraline ($16.8 million) and ParaNorman ($14.1 million). In his B- review, Joe McGovern wrote: “The script lacks the wit of Wallace & Gromit — even the trolls groan at a giant cheese named the Briehemoth — and never sinks its teeth into the twisted fantasy of its premise.”

4. This is Where I Leave You $7 million
Warner Bros.’ star-studded $19 million pic has the potential for a 40 percent fall, considering it’s targeted to older audience who aren’t necessarily going to rush out to theaters to see something opening weekend.

5. A Walk Among the Tombstones $5 million
After failing to connect with critics or audiences, the Liam Neeson-starrer, which cost a reported $28 million to produce, has earned an estimated $20.7 million worldwide and should drop over 50 percent in weekend two.

In limited release the Christian-audience targeted musical drama The Song opens in 300 theaters while Lionsgate and Pantelion’s horror Mas Negro Que La Noche launches in 178 locations. Magnolia is also releasing the psychological thriller The Two Faces of January, which is currently available on VOD and stars Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst.

Meanwhile, CBS Films’ excellently reviewed Pride, a post-Cannes acquisition about a U.K. workers’ strike starring Bill Nighy and Dominic West, debuts in six theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Fransisco.

Check back in this weekend for estimates and analysis.