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Box Office: ‘Equalizer 3’ Balances Out $13.1 Million Opening Day, Aims for Second-Biggest Labor Day Debut Ever

Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer 3” is showing some box office virtuosity, taking flight in its domestic debut after grossing $13.1 million on opening day from 3,241 venues. That includes $3.8 million in Thursday previews, boosted by showtimes in premium large format auditoriums.

The third and ostensibly final entry in Sony’s action series is gunning for the second-highest Labor Day weekend opening in history. The holiday isn’t typically a boon for box office, though Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” set a record two years ago with a $94.6 million four-day opening. “Equalizer 3” won’t reach those heights, but it’s contending against the runner-up for the record — Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake, which stabbed into $30 million in 2007. After Friday, the new vigilante film, co-financed by Sony, TSG and Eagle Pictures, is projecting a four-day opening north of $42 million.

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Those numbers show that Washington is one of the few names in entertainment that can still open a film in theaters without the boost of intellectual property (though “The Equalizer” series represents the actor’s only sequels in his career). The projected debut shows some box office déjà vu, landing in the same ballpark as the two previous “Equalizer” entries. The 2015 original landed $34 million in a traditional three-day frame, while the 2018 sequel had a light uptick with $36 million. Both films eventually crossed $100 million in North America and neared $200 million worldwide.

With a production budget of $70 million, “Equalizer 3” will look to put together a similar performance over the coming weeks. Reviews have been mostly warm, with a series-high 79% approval rating from top critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. And the film has got game with audiences, as indicated by its glowing “A” grade on Cinema Score.

Antoine Fuqua returns to direct the entry after helming the first two installments. “Equalizer 3” sees Washington return as ex-Marine Robert McCall, this time working to free friends from the Italian mafia. Washington reunites with his “Man on Fire” co-star Dakota Fanning, while David Denman, Sonia Ammar and Remo Girone round out the cast.

After preview grosses helped boost “Gran Turismo” to the strange achievement of a No. 1 opening without it ever actually being the top grosser on last Friday, Saturday or Sunday, the Sony release is now projecting $6.55 million over the three-day frame, which would mark a 62% fall from its debut. That’d be good for fourth place on domestic charts, falling behind “Barbie” and “Blue Beetle,” two Warner Bros. releases. That’s not exactly a dazzling hold for a film with a strong Cinema Score, a $60 million production budget and homegrown Sony PlayStation IP. The domestic total should reach around $30 million through the end of Labor Day.

“Barbie” looks to take silver in its seventh weekend in theaters. The comedy earned $2.5 million on Friday, down only 38% from its previous outing. This morning, the Warner Bros. release officially surpassed “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” to become the highest-grossing global release of the year with $1.36 billion and counting.

Warner Bros. should also secure bronze over the four-day frame, as “Blue Beetle” earned $1.52 million on Friday, tallying a 42% drop from its second Friday. After a disappointing opening that came in behind projections, the superhero film has certainly held better than its DC Studios peers from this year, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash.” But with only $50 million in North American ticket sales, “Blue Beetle” likely won’t be able to justify its production budget north of $100 million.

Rounding out the top five, Universal’s “Oppenheimer” is projecting $5.38 million over the three-day frame for another modest drop (-35%). The Christopher Nolan epic will push to $310 million domestically and $850 million worldwide through Monday.

Expanding this weekend, MGM’s queer comedy “Bottoms” jumped from 10 locations to 715. Rivals are projecting a $4.1 million gross over the holiday weekend, good for seventh place on domestic charts.

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