Sony’s The Equalizer 3 — reuniting director Antonie Fuqua and Denzel Washington — is doing just the trick at the box office.
The movie is providing the final boost needed to push domestic summer box office to $4 billion for the first time in the post-pandemic era in a much-needed boost for Hollywood studios and theater owners. Equalizer 3 is also headed for the second-best Labor Day opening of all time with as much as $43.5 million.
The industry looks to have achieved the $4 billion milestone on Friday, although final numbers are still being tabulated. According to Comscore, $4 billion represents a 16.3 percent gain over 2022’s $3.43 billion summer. And the deficit from summer 2019 — when revenue hit $4.34 billion — has decreased from 15 percent before Barbenheimer to 7.8 percent. A final 2023 summer number will be released once Labor Day wraps.
“For the industry, after a three-year hiatus, to generate enough summer box office heat to again reach the $4B benchmark for the season is a remarkable achievement made even more interesting by the unexpected and often confounding path that led to this key milestone,” says Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “From Barbenheimer to Sound of Freedom and a host of other high-profile hits and somewhat inexplicable misses, the unpredictable nature of this all-important 18-week corridor was on full display. Equalizer 3 is taking us out on a high note!”
By close of business Aug. 31, domestic revenue was only $26.9 million shy of $4 billion. Thankfully, Equalizer 3 is coming in ahead of expectations at the Labor Day holiday box office. The action pic grossed $13.1 million on Friday for a projected four-day opening of $42 million to $43.5 million.
Equalizer 3 is assured of scoring the top start of the series, although the first two debuted over traditional three-day weekends. The first pic opened to $34.1 million, followed by $36 million for the sequel, not adjusted for inflation. The threequel’s estimated three-day take is around $35 million.
Audiences bestowed the threequel with a glowing A CinemaScore. The film played to an ethnically diverse audiences. White people made up 33 percent of Friday ticket buyers, followed by Black people (31 percent), Latin people (20 percent) and Asian/Other people (15 percent).
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is easily holding at No. 2 in her seventh weekend with a projected four-day domestic gross of $13 million-plus.
The Warner Bros. pic achieved yet another milestone on Thursday when jumping the $600 million mark domestically and passing up the $1.359 billion grossed by Universal and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie at the worldwide box office to become the top-grossing pic of 2023 to date (Barbie has grossed north of $750 million overseas.)
Elsewhere in the top five, DC’s Blue Beetle is pacing to come in No. 3 at the Labor Day box office, followed by Sony’s Gran Turismo: Based on A True Story and Universal’s summer blockbuster Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer, like Barbie, continues to make headlines. The film will clear the $850 million mark at the global box office as it becomes Christopher Nolan’s third-biggest film ever. In North America, it’s expected to gross $7 million or more for the four-day holiday frame.