Friday, September 19, 2014

‘The Maze Runner’ guns for first place

This weekend, we may finally see a break in the fog of doom-and-gloom surrounding the domestic box office these past several months. With The Maze Runner, A Walk Among the Tombstones and This is Where I Leave You, the industry should enjoy a return to healthier tallies.

Bowing at 3,604 locations, The Maze Runner is poised to claim the No. 1 spot. Yet another film based on a popular young-adult book series, the latest from 20th Century Fox is looking, like so many of its YA-adaptation predecessors, to follow in the footsteps of megahits The Hunger Games and Divergent. On the one hand, it does have the all-important built-in fan-base, those who are avid readers of the books. On the other, the recent spate of YA movies – and dystopian YA films at that – will likely make it that much more difficult for The Maze Runner to appeal to viewers unfamiliar with the novels, combating as it must a pervasive sense of genre fatigue. (Just look at the ill-fated and timed The Giver.) While it’s unlikely to match the high bows of Games and Divergent, The Maze Runner may nonetheless open in the mid-to-high $20 millions.

A Walk Among the Tombstones should clock in at No. 2, while This is Where I Leave You will likely take third place. Liam Neeson has built a successful action-star brand around himself, with such films as Taken, The Grey, and the recent Non-Stop. Tombstones seems a bit more dour than these titles, but the prospect of watching Neeson in take-charge and take-names-later mode should still lure a substantial crowd into theatres. Universal thinks their film has enough appeal to warrant a bow in the mid-to-high-teens.

This is Where I Leave You has an extraordinarily appealing cast, including Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and the buzzy Adam Driver. Unfortunately, the film has received poor reviews, and its dramedy premise, that of estranged siblings returning to the family homestead for their father’s funeral, doesn’t seem all that novel or interesting. In all likelihood, Leave You will enjoy a solid opening, thanks to interest in its cast, but then fall rather quickly in the weeks ahead. Look for an opening in the low-to-mid-teens.

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