Adaptations of young-adult books proved their might again at the box office this weekend as “The Maze Runner” sped past other new movie releases.
Despite somewhat slow sales for its Thursday night and Friday matinee shows, “The Maze Runner” finished strongly to gross an estimated $32.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, solidly meeting expectations.
The Liam Neeson thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones” came in second with $13.1 million, followed by the comedy-drama “This Is Where I Leave You,” which took in $11.9 million.
“Sometimes you just have to be patient,” Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox’s head of domestic distribution, said of numbers that built through the weekend for “The Maze Runner.”
The studio had cautiously predicted an opening of $20 million to $30 million in the U.S. and Canada. But “The Maze Runner” did so well that Aronson said Sunday that the studio was picking up the film’s sequel, “The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials.”
Based on the bestselling thriller by James Dashner, “The Maze Runner” follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who is deposited into a community of young men in a postapocalyptic world. After learning that they are trapped in a maze, he joins fellow “runners” to try to escape.
The film, which was directed by Wes Ball and cost about $34 million to make, had a large young-adult turnout: About 65% of the audience was younger than 25.
“The Maze Runner” follows the release of “Divergent,” which met expectations in its opening weekend, grossing $56 million. The first “Hunger Games” film opened at more than $152 million in March 2012, and its sequel “Catching Fire” opened in November 2013 to $158 million.
Illustrating the audience overlap, the official “Hunger Games” Twitter account has exchanged some tweets with the “Maze Runner” account. The “Hunger Games” account tweeted Thursday: “Head to theaters this weekend to see the #Mockingjay Part 1 official trailer, playing before @MazeRunnerMovie!” The “Maze Runner” account then tweeted a thank-you back.
The film had a male lead in O’Brien, known for his role as the best friend to Tyler Posey’s character in the “Teen Wolf” series on MTV. O’Brien, one of Hollywood’s young heartthrobs, has more than 2 million followers on Twitter.
“He was perfect for the role,” Aronson said, noting his ability to draw in both male and female audiences.
The gender breakdown for the film was fairly balanced, with female moviegoers making up 51% of the audience.
“His appeal resides on the female side but he’s also a very strong leading guy,” Aronson said.
The movie received a grade of A-minus from audience polling form Cinemascore and earned generally positive reviews from critics. As of Sunday, it had notched a positive 63% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures’ “A Walk Among the Tombstones” fell short of the studio’s mid-to-high teens forecast.
“I don’t know what to say about why it didn’t [meet expectations],” said Universal’s head of distribution, Nikki Rocco. “But I have to say the truth of the matter is the picture was made for a very acceptable price, so it’s not all that devastating to the producers.”
The Neeson action film cost about $28 million to make. Rocco said the film was popular among adult audiences and Neeson fans. About 77% of the audience was 25 and older.
“The main reason they went to see it was they wanted to see Liam,” Rocco said. “Just not enough of the Neeson fans came.”
Warner Bros.’ “This Is Where I Leave You” also fell short of analyst and studio expectations. The character-based comedy-drama, which cost about $20 million to make, has a star-studded cast that includes Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.
Based on the bestselling novel by Jonathan Tropper and directed by Shawn Levy, the film follows four siblings who reunite after their father dies. The film returns to a genre that’s not done very often these days — the kind of family dramedy popularized in films such as “Terms of Endearment.”
As of Sunday, “This Is Where I Leave You” had a 43% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the film a B-plus on CinemaScore.
In their second weekends, Sony’s “No Good Deed” and Warner Bros.’ “Dolphin Tale 2” finished at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
Director Sam Miller’s “No Good Deed” added $10.2 million, raising its total gross in the U.S. and Canada to $40.1 million.
The family film “Dolphin Tale 2″ took in about $9 million over the weekend, bringing its total gross in the U.S. and Canada to $27.1 million.
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