By Shawn Robbins
The end-of-summer box office doldrums may have set in recently, but today's first industry tracking for Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials suggests the anticipated sequel is heading for a strong opening weekend close to $50 million when it launches September 18.
Scorch Trials' "Definite Interest" levels scored 52 percent among those polled, putting it in line with The Divergent Series: Insurgent's 54 percent near the same point before its release in March. "First Choice" figures were also near identical with 15 percent for Scorch versus 16 percent for Insurgent. Those marks are even better when considering the Maze Runner sequel's "Unaided Awareness" (4 percent) and "Total Awareness" (73 percent) levels are slightly behind those of Insurgent (6 percent and 77 percent, respectively) three weeks out from release.
Unsurprisingly, male interest in Scorch Trials is slightly higher and offsets the marginal difference in female interest for Insurgent. The latter pic scored a $52.3 million domestic bow earlier this year.
A $50 million opening for the second of three planned adaptations in the published trilogy by James Dashner would be a huge improvement over its predecessor's already-strong $32.5 million opening last year, which stands as the seventh best September debut ever. Anything over $42.5 million (held by 2012's Hotel Transylvania) would give Scorch Trials the new record for the month. (As box office fate would have it, Hotel Transylvania 2 is set to release one week later on September 25.)
The first film was a component in Fox's successful 2014 as it displayed something rare in the young adult sub-genre: long legs. Following its debut, the pic went on to $102.4 million domestically and an additional $244.3 million overseas for an excellent $347 million global take.
On a combined estimated budget of $70 million ($34 million in production costs plus marketing and distribution), The Maze Runner claimed a praiseworthy profit ratio of 4.96 during its theatrical run -- besting the first Divergent's own healthy 2.22 ratio ($289 million global gross; $130 million estimated combined budget). Insurgent landed a more modest 1.84 ratio ($285 million gross; $155 million combined budget), skirting the line of what is generally accepted as a profitable theatrical run (not considering after-market ancillaries, of course).
Word of mouth has clearly spread from the book's fans and turned Maze Runner into yet another mainstream YA franchise, as suggested by Scorch's impressive early tracking. The sequel's trailers have shown off an expanded scope that should help it play well in premium formats, including IMAX.
The young adult adaptation sub-genre has continued to thrive in the post-Harry Potter and post-Twilight box office world thanks to franchises like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and now The Maze Runner -- all three of which interestingly take place in dystopian futures. Social media has been a boon to these series, and Scorch Trials falls in line there as well. The sequel has amassed 43 percent more Flixster anticipation votes than its predecessor had at the same point before release, while also becoming a high-ranking staple among upcoming releases on Twitter and Facebook.
We'll have more analysis and updated predictions on The Scorch Trials as its release nears.
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