ABOVE: Watch the trailer for The Equalizer.
NEW YORK – Flexing his star power, Denzel Washington led the thriller The Equalizer to a $35 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It dominated the weekend box office, surpassing some expectations for the film. Washington plays a former commando living a quiet life in Boston when the disappearance of a prostitute acquaintance (Chloe Grace Moretz) lures him into a battle with the Russian mafia.
The strong opening marks the third-best debut in Washington’s career, trailing only 2012’s Safe House ($40.1 million) and 2007’s American Gangster ($43.6 million). Washington, who will turn 60 in December, has been one of Hollywood’s most reliable draws without the benefit of anything like a superhero franchise.
The Equalizer reteams Washington with director Antoine Fuqua, who helmed 2001’s Training Day. That film memorably earned Washington an Oscar for best actor. A sequel to The Equalizer, which is loosely based on the ’80s CBS series, is already in development.
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Last weekend’s top performer, the young-adult novel adaptation The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien, slid to second with $17.5 million in its second week. The movie also has a sequel in the works, due out next September
The stop-motion animated release The Boxtrolls opened in third place with $17.3 million. It’s the best opening yet for Laika, the Oregon-based animation studio whose previous films are the Oscar-nominated Coraline and ParaNorman.
Critics have been less enthusiastic about The Boxtrolls, about a boy who’s raised by nocturnal, box-wearing critters beneath the British village of Cheesebridge. But the release capitalized on the relative dearth of family-friendly options in theatres over recent months.
Canadian director Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You finished the weekend in fourth place with $7 million and Dolphin Tale 2 placed fifth with $4.8 million.