Box Office: 'Maze Runner' Surges Friday Night for $30M-Plus Debut; 'Tombstones' Distant No. 2

Shawn Levy's adult dramedy 'This Is Where I Leave You' also enters the fray

Twentieth Century Fox's boy-centric The Maze Runner took off Friday night at the multiplex thanks to younger males and females, putting it on course for a debut of $30 million or more. It's the first YA film adaptation to launch in September, a generally sleepy month at the North American box office.

Maze Runner, earning an A- CinemaScore, grossed roughly $11 million for the day from 3,604 theaters, including Imax runs.

Liam Neeson's A Walk Among the Tombstones placed a distant No. 2, earning $4.7 million on Friday for a projected $14 million weekend and coming in behind the actor's other recent action films. Shawn Levy's adult dramedy This Is Where I Leave You is projected to take in $11 million-plus for the weekend after placing No. 3 Friday with $3.9 million (neither film was costly to make).

Maze Runner hopes to launch a new franchise for Fox, which spent $34 million to make the thriller. Dylan O'Brien (Teen Wolf) Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter star in the movie.

Heading into the weekend, tracking services suggested Maze Runner could shoot past $35 million in its North American debut, although tracking has been notoriously unreliable in recent months. As a result, Fox was more conservative in its estimates, saying $30 million or less. Based on matinee business, the number was actually revised south to $25 million, but ticket sales picked up by nighttime.

Maze Runner follows O'Brien's character as he wakes up with no memory inside the center of a giant maze, an area known as The Glade, surrounded by other teen boys who likewise can't remember anything. Threatening them all are vicious creatures known as Grievers. The boys look for a way out of the maze, but it isn't until a mysterious girl arrives that they have a fighting chance. Females made up 52 percent of Friday's audience, while males represented 48 percent, a strong showing for a demo that's more and more difficult to lure to theaters.

Wes Ball directed from an adapted script by Noah Oppenheim.

In terms of comparisons, dystopian YA film adaptation Ender's Game opened to $27 million in November 2011 after a $9.8 million Friday. Divergent, also a dystopian story but featuring a female heroine (Shailene Woodley), launched to $54.6 million in March 2014.

From Cross Creek Pictures, Walk Among Tombstones earned a B+ CinemaScore. It is coming in well behind this year's Non-Stop, which debuted to $28.9 million. However, that film, like Neeson's Taken franchise or Unknown, were rated PG-13, versus an R for Tombstones (insiders also note Tombstones' darker tone).

The movie, costing a reported $23 million to make and playing in 2,712 locations, is based on Lawrence Block's best-selling mystery novels and stars Neeson as ex-New York City cop Matt Scudder, who now works as an unlicensed private investigator and is hired by a drug dealer to find the dealer's kidnapped wife.

Universal is distributing Tombstones in the U.S., while Entertainment One has Canada. Older males, as expected, are most interested in seeing the film, but their wives or girlfriends could try to convince them to see This Is Where I Leave You instead.

This Is Where I Leave You is a marked departure for Levy, who generally sticks to big commercial fare. The dramedy, playing in 2,868 theaters, cost $20 million to make but certainly doesn't lack star power, boasting a cast led by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Jane Fonda. It earned a B+ CinemaScore.

From Warner Bros. and based on Jonathan Tropper's novel, This Is Where I Leave You follows four siblings who reunite at their family home to sit shiva for their father (Tropper wrote the adapted screenplay). The movie made its world premiere earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival and is projected to open in the low to mid teens.

Several other Toronto titles debut this weekend, albeit in more limited runs, including Kevin Smith's Tusk, which A24 rolled out in roughly 600 theaters Friday, and Relativity Media's British comedy Hector and the Search for Happiness, which is only playing in New York and Los Angeles. Tusk is projected to earn $1 million-plus for the weekend.

Other new specialty offerings include Mia Wasikowska's Tracks, from The Weinstein Co., and Amplify's The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam.

Elsewhere, Screen Gems' No Good Deed placed No. 4 on its second Friday with $3 million from 2,175 theaters for a weekend gross in the $9 million to $9.5 million range, and putting the thriller's domestic total close to $40 million.

Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.' family film Dolphin Tale 2 rounded out the top five, grossing $2.1 million on its second Friday. The sequel is expected to earn an estimated $8.3 for the weekend for a domestic total of roughly $26 million.

Sept. 19, 3:45 p.m. Updated with Friday projections.

Sept. 20, 7 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.

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