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The Maze Runner beyond expectations

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

The Maze Runner beyond expectations

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NEW YORK (AP) – The young-adult (YA) adaptation The Maze Runner raced to the top of the box-office with US$32.5 million, giving a budding franchise a quick start out of the gate.

The 20th Century Fox release easily outpaced the $13.1 million debut of Liam Neeson’s hardboiled private eye thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones and the $11.9 million opening for the ensemble-cast dramedy This Is Where I Leave You, according to studio estimates yesterday.

The strong opening for The Maze Runner, adapted from James Dashner’s science-fiction YA novel, is a big success for a movie that cost $34 million to make and was released in the normally quiet month of September.

Fox aimed to make the film – about a group of teenage boys mysteriously locked inside a giant maze – the first post-summer event movie, putting it on IMAX and large-format screens.

“Our little $34 million-budgeted film is pretty darn strong,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for Fox. “No one had launched a YA title in September. We took a risk, but it paid off.”

Aronson said attracting young moviegoers has been “the Achilles heel” of Hollywood in recent years. But the studio has recently found success with relatively low-budget YA releases, like The Fault in Our Stars, the Shailene Woodley melodrama that made $125 million earlier this year despite a budget of just $12 million.

“It shows the pitch-perfect strategic planning of Fox,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. “Teenagers are probably the most fickle creatures on the planet to figure out. So marketing to this particular group is tricky, and there have been a lot of casualties in this YA war.”

But The Maze Runner, which drew a 51 per cent female audience despite an almost all-male cast, is now a promising franchise. Its opening was further boosted by $37.6 million internationally. Aronson announced yesterday that the planned sequel, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, will bow September 18 next year.

While Neeson’s box-office strength has been hard to beat in recent years, Universal’s darker, R-rated A Walk Among the Tombstones came in well below the track record established by his Taken series or, from earlier this year, Non-Stop. Neeson stars as a justice-seeking former NYPD detective.

Warner Bros’ This Is Where I Leave You, about a large suburban family sitting Shiva for the funeral of their patriarch, boasted an A-list ensemble cast including Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda.