‘The Equalizer 3” began its domestic box office sprint with $3.8 million. That’s well above the $1.4 million Thursday preview gross of “The Equalizer” in 2014 and just above the $3.1 million earned by “The Equalizer 2” in 2018.
Inflation and earlier preview showtimes notwithstanding, that’s a strong sign that this third installment of the franchise, which stars Denzel Washington as former special ops agent Robert McCall who periodically goes vigilante defending the defenseless, will open on par with the $34-$36 million earned by its predecessors over their respective opening weekends. Sony is hoping for $40 million over the four-day Labor Day holiday, and they just might get it.
Even with mixed-negative reviews, this is a pure star+IP sell. That said, it’s less about the CBS television show and more about a biblically serious Denzel Washington unleashing horrific but justifiable vengeance against very bad dudes. This is a star+IP situation where the star is bigger than the brand.
That Dakota Fanning co-stars has the bonus of making the film a metaphorical “Man on Fire” legacy sequel. That 2004 flick was essentially “Taken” before “Taken,” and helped affirm Washington’s bankability as a righteously ponderous action star handing out lethal justice like a slasher movie baddie.
Presuming this film performs well, it will be an example of how a brand can thrive in two different places as long as they are different enough. This is the first entry in the series to open during the existence of the most recent “Equalizer” television reboot, a popular CBS show starring Queen Latifah. The show and the movies are different enough to co-exist. Meanwhile, presuming it pulls at least $31 million over the four-day weekend, it’ll be the second-biggest Labor Day launch ever (sans inflation) after the $94 million debut of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Finally, even with pre-taped video interview segments for social media and online use, “The Equalizer 3” is a prime example of a star vehicle having to open without its star(s) doing the present-tense publicity. Sony felt that the franchise awareness and the simple sale were enough to do the job even without Washington doing talk show appearances, online interviews and magazine profiles. If a pure star+franchise flick can pull business-as-usual box office without the stars selling their film(s), that could mean that other such IP sells like “The Marvels,” or “Wonka” can breathe a little easier.
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