Box Office: Denzel Washington's 'The Equalizer' Surging to $36M-Plus Debut

Family offering 'The Boxtrolls' is also doing nicely

Denzel Washington's The Equalizer, reuniting the popular actor with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, topped the Friday box office with $12.6 million-plus from 3,236 theaters, putting it on course for an impressive North American debut in the $36 million-plus range after snagging an A- CinemaScore. It could even hit $37 million.

That would mark Washington's second-best opening at the domestic box office after Safe House ($40.2 million)  and American Gangster ($43.6 million), not accounting for inflation.  Equalizer, based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, is pacing notably ahead of Washington's last two movies, 2 Guns ($27.1 million) and Flight ($24.9 million).

Heading into the weekend, Sony was more conservative, suggesting a debut in the $25 million to $30 million. It's no surprise, considering how volatile the domestic box office has been in recent months. Still, the studio was so keen on Equalizer's prospects following its premiere at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival that it was already developing a sequel. It made Equalizer with Village Roadshow Pictures and LStar Capital.

Read more Denzel Washignton and Antoine Fuqua's 'Equalizer': "Like We Never Stopped Working Together"

The Equalizer is benefiting from playing in Imax theaters and large-format screens, the preferred venue for males. It also features Eminem's new single, "Guts Over Fear," featuring Sia.

The R-rated film stars Washington as McCall, a former member of the special forces who is now leading a quiet life. But when he meets a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) under the control of ultraviolent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by and comes out of his self-imposed retirement to do battle on the streets of Boston.

Read more Chloe Grace Moretz: 'It Would Be Great' to See a Strong Female Superhero

Sony has waged an aggressive digital marketing campaign for Equalizer, as well as holding tastemaker screenings in 15 major cities with the help of sports stars such as Michael Strahan, Dwight Howard and Tiger Woods, as well as NFL teams the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers.

Focus Features' 3D family offering The Boxtrolls is the weekend's other new nationwide entry and is pacing to open to a pleasing $16.7 million, on par with Coraline ($16.8 million) and ahead of ParaNorman ($14.1 million), both also from Oregon-based animation house Laika and Focus. earned a B+ CinemaScore.

Boxtrolls, earning a B+ CinemaScore, came in No. 3 Friday after Equalizer and holdover The Maze Runner with $4.9 million from 3,638 theaters.

Directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, Boxtrolls' star-studded voice cast includes Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan and Simon Pegg.

Boxtrolls features a boy named Eggs, who has been raised by a community of quirky, mischievous creatures living in a cavernous home beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town's villain, Archibald Snatcher, comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture aboveground to save the day.

Maze Runner earned an estimated $5.2 million on its second Friday for a projected $18.5 million weekend and domestic cume of $59 million for 20th Century Fox.

Shawn Levy's adult-skewing dramedy This Is Where I Leave You is holding nicely in its second weekend and should come in No. 4, falling 33 percent to an estimated $7.8 million from 2,868 theaters for a domestic total of $23 million-plus through Sunday. Fellow Warner Bros. release Dolphin Tale 2 should take the No. 5 spot with an estimated $5.1 million from 3,376 locations for a total $34 million.

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