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Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News For Movie Lovers

A week after Fox’s “The Maze Runner” added a much needed shot of box office adrenaline, two more major studio releases offer cinematic salvation in the form of full-tilt action with “The Equalizer” and kiddie distraction from “The Boxtrolls.”

Sony aims for the Denzel Washington fan club as he steps into his umpteenth film as a bad ass detective/ex-cop righting societal wrongs. He knows this genre better than just about anyone outside Liam Neeson, but unlike “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which flailed last weekend, “The Equalizer” looks to be  a direct hit.

Sony’s modestly budgeted, $55M  adaptation of the 1980s TV show is helmed by Antoine Fuqua, who delivers action flicks with a kinetic energy and innate sense of realism that make him one of today’s best.  I mean, c’mon, nobody really wanted to like his last film, “Olympus Has Fallen,” but like many people we honestly couldn’t help ourselves.  Fuqua and Washington previously collaborated on “Training Day”–for which Washington was nominated for an Oscar–and for my money, is one of Washington’s best flicks in the last couple decades, along with 2012’s “Flight.”

And although Washington has amazingly navigated his long career  technically “sequel” free,  between “Man on Fire,” “Out of Time,” “John Q,” “Deja Vu,” and “Unstoppable” it’s sometimes hard to remember where one role ends and the next one begins. That said, he still got game, and this should prove it as “The Equalizer” looks to bum-rush the box office to the tune of $35M+.

Sony is pretty high on this property as they are already developing a sequel.  So could “The Equalizer” finally be the film that is the sequelizer for Washington? Depends how big the paycheck is and/or if Don Cheadle is available to fill his shoes.  Washington’s a lone wolf and believe it or not, despite all his success he’s only had  four films ever gross more than $100M+ domestic– “Safe House,” “American Gangster,” “Remember the Titans,” and “The Pelican Brief.”

Laika, the last bastion of stop-motion animation, delivers “The Boxtrolls” this weekend, a film  that may be their most commercial to date. Despite a heap of accolades though, their previous films “Corpse Bride,” “Coraline,” and the positively dead-on, “ParaNorman,” all failed to reach $100M+ which is usually the bare minimum to be considered a box office success in the world of animation.

Fact is, these films don’t come cheap. Laika’s previous films cost around $60M and many, many years in development, so the company needs a big hit if it hopes to keep competing with DreamWorks , Disney, Blue Sky,  The Minions  and every other studio and production shingle out there dabbling in animation.

They definitely look like they have the goods, delivering one of the most precious trailers in some time, but the reviews, while certified Fresh currently at 77%, are nowhere near the 90% fresh or 87% fresh of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” respectively.

Here’s the rub.  Even a relatively crappy animated film like this year’s “The Nut Job” ended up grossing more than “ParaNorman” at the box office, despite getting pummeled by critics and left for dead with a 10% fresh rating. Guess what? Kids don’t really care. When you make a beautiful work of art, like Laika does every time, it attracts cinephiles more than families and that’s the bottom line here.

Canvassing 3,300+ theaters, hopefully “The Boxtrolls” will be kooky and spooky enough to attract a wide audience and debut with upwards of $20M. However with Simon Pegg  and Nick Frost in supporting roles, there’s a chance audiences will find this too British (sorry Brits, apparently you’re a polarizing bunch), much like 2006’s “Flushed Away” which opened with $18M on its way to just $64M. Let’s hope this does big business, just so we know we’ll see more of these works of art.

“Coraline” debuted with $16M on its way to $75M, while “ParaNorman” launched with just  $14M and $56M overall.

Luckily for Laika and Focus Features there hasn’t been an animated film in theaters since “Planes: Fire & Rescue” in mid-July. That’s a two month drought, which one would think would have families making a beeline for the box office, however, stop-motion usually moves audiences at a snail’s pace.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1.  The Equalizer – $37M

2. The Boxtrolls- $18M

3.  The Maze Runner – $17M

4.  This is Where I Leave You – $7M

5.  A Walk Among the Tombstones – $6.5M

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CLIPS AND BLIPS: WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

“The Equalizer” (Sony)

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“The Boxtrolls” (Focus Features)

If “The Boxtrolls” is even half as good as these two teaser trailers, it should play in theaters through Halloween and rake up quite a windfall.

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CHOICE CLIP OF THE WEEK: Sony’s “The Interview” (Oct. 10, 2014) RED BAND

Seth Rogen and James Franco team up again, and finally give us a trailer worth blowing shit up over. The first trailer was a complete mess, this one however is spot on. Down and dirty…should be fun…even if it will lead to global thermonuclear war with North Korea.

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CLASSIC CLIP OF THE WEEK: MGM’s “War Games” (1983)

Home of the WOPR. Shall we play a game?  Seriously, if you’ve never seen this, you don’t know just how great Matthew Broderick was. I mean, if you think about it, he was John Cusack before Cusack was Cusack! Boom! That just blew your mind!

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THERE IS NO END FOR “THE MAZE RUNNER”

Usually a studio waits until at until Monday after a successful opening weekend to announce a sequel, but Fox apparently couldn’t wait, letting everyone know a couple hours after reporting grosses on Sunday that “The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” would hit theaters Sept. 18, 2015.

As most successful YA franchises are apt to do lately, they lock down their release zone–which here, happens to be a dystopian wasteland known as September–and release a new film each year instead of every other year like most series.

It’s easy to see why Fox is so amped about this property as they spent just $30M for principle production on “The Maze Runner.” That’s a tidy budget when compared to their previous YA attempt, “Percy Jackson” and its sequel, which cost almost $100M per episode and never really launched a franchise.  Good on ya, Fox.

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BALLAD OF THE BOX OFFICE LOSERS

As we found out last weekend, September can be one of the cruelest month for films, as  three out of the four films came up decisively short of expectations. I mean, when’s the last time Liam Neeson opened an action film with $12M? Why can’t Tiny Fey and Jason Bateman open movies anymore (“This is Where I Leave You”)? Why the heck did Kevin Smith come out of retirement to make a movie about a man who turns another man into a walrus only to suffer the worst opening of his career? I say “Tusk, Tusk” you say “tisk, tisk.”

And let’s also give a loser shout-out to Aaron Paul, who has been at home in seclusion with just his XBOX to keep him company since “Need For Speed” wiped out this spring.  And it would be a shame not to mention Robert Rodriguez (and Frank Miller), who supplied summer’s biggest bomb with “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,”– it cost $65M and debuted with a dainty $6M. That’s enough to give you concrete shoes in this town, kid.

But hey, let’s give these multi-millionaires a break already–making a film is hard, so the very least we can all do is appreciate their effort. Thank you Garfunkel and Oates for supplying the beat to those that have been beat down.

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Yo! Aaron Paul at Home Playing Video Games

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“The Equalizer” Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures; Poster Design by BLT Communications