scorch.pngBy 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.

Follow Shawn Robbins and BoxOffice on Twitter

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aug21wknd.pngUniversal's Straight Outta Compton tacked on another $2.1 million yesterday, retaining first place as it fell 60 percent from last Wednesday. The biopic's 13-day domestic haul is $118.95 million, putting it 35 percent ahead of 8 Mile and 50 percent ahead of Ride Along.

In second place, TWC's No Escape opened to $1.18 million in its first day of release. That's somewhat ahead of expectations as it bested last year's The November Man (which also opened on a Wednesday in late August) by 37 percent.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation added $1.03 million yesterday, down just 41 percent from last Wednesday. The hit sequel's domestic take is now $161.1 million, putting it 6 percent ahead of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 37 percent ahead of Mission: Impossible III.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. earned $0.697 million yesterday, off 45 percent from last Wednesday. Its 13-day domestic take is $29.03 million, 11 percent behind Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Sinister 2 pulled $0.68 million in its sixth day of release, giving it $13.2 million in total so far. Unfortunately, that's over 39 percent behind where its 2012 predecessor stood at the same point.

Meanwhile, Hitman: Agent 47 added $0.64 million yesterday, giving it a six-day haul of $10.8 million. That puts the sequel 51 percent behind the pace of its 2007 predecessor.

Lastly, American Ultra pulled in $0.47 million on Wednesday for a six-day total of $7.24 million. The stoner comedy is pacing 2 percent behind fellow Jesse Eisenberg/Kristen Stewart flick Adventureland.

 

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insideoutlongrange.pngThe official press release:

Disney•Pixar's Inside Out crossed the $700M mark at the global box office on Wednesday, August 26, for a worldwide total of $701M. This is the fifth Pixar film and Disney's seventh animated film ever to reach this threshold.

With $343M domestically, Inside Out is the highest grossing animated film of the year and the second highest grossing Pixar film ever on original release, behind only Toy Story 3. The film debuted in the US and Canada on June 19 with $90.4M, the biggest opening ever for an original property.

Internationally, Inside Out has earned $358M. Currently open in about 81% of the marketplace, the film debuts in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Singapore this weekend. Major markets still to come include Germany, Italy, and China.

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Jonathan Papish @ChinaBoxOffice

In a crowded field of ten new releases this weekend, four films have the potential to make a dent at the box office, but none will challenge Terminator: Genisys for the top spot.

September 3rd marks the 70th Anniversary of the Allied victory over Japan in World War II and China is commemorating the event as a national holiday complete with a grand military parade in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Several military themed films are also being released to coincide with the anniversary of China's victory in "The War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression" or "The World Anti-Fascist War" as WWII is known in Chinese.

The Hundred Regiments Offensive (百团大战) is well known in Red China history and the famous 1940 battle between CCP and Japanese forces is getting a big screen recreation in cooperation with state-run Bayi Film Studio (八一电影制片厂). The film's core audience will be Communist Party officials so we expect high attendance rates the first few days due to group sales. Although comparisons with The Founding of the Republic (建国大业) which commemorated the 60th anniversary of PRC's establishment are easy in terms of Communist patting-on-the-back, this film doesn't feature the same star power and won't come close to matching its $63 million total.

Also set during World War II, Tale of Three Cities (三城记) is a love story spanning three cities over the course of the war. Hong Kong actor Sean Lau (Overheard -$48.25M) and Tang Wei (Finding Mr. Right - $81.38M) play a couple who fall in love in Anhui Province, are torn apart in Shanghai, and are finally reunited in Hong Kong. While the cast certainly has the power to rally supporters, the wartime epic love story has limited box office appeal. Look for this one to gross less than $5 million total.

Fans of high-quality Chinese cinema have their pick of two award-winning films this weekend in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's long awaited martial arts elegy The Assassin (刺客聂隐娘) and Cao Baoping's crime drama The Dead End (烈日灼心).

Taiwanese master craftsman Hou (Flight of the Red Balloon) brought home the Best Director Award from this year's Cannes Film Festival for The Assassin, a film that took him nearly ten years to finish. Fans of high-octane kung fu swordplay should sit this one out however, as The Assassin's slow-moving and ambiguous plot are more in line with literary style than with the usual genre expectations. The Assassin will have its US premiere at this year's New York Film Festival and has been picked up by Well Go for stateside distribution.

This weekend's most anticipated release in terms of awareness and intent to purchase according to EntGroup's EFMT Index, The Dead End follows three men as the law finally catches up with them 7 years after committing and getting away with a horrific crime. Now laying low in seaside Xiamen - Xin Xiaofeng (Deng Chao), an auxiliary police detective and Yang Zidao (Guo Tao), a taxi driver (a third accomplice was mostly edited out due to actor Gao Hu's drug arrest) - the men are secretly looking after the daughter of their victim as a personal act of redemption. But when Xin's new boss Yi Guchun (Duan Yihong) grows suspicious, it looks like their gig is up.

Cao Boaping took the Best Director Award and the trio of performers jointly won the Best Actor Award at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival. Based on the impressive cast and its strong preview screenings this past weekend ($0.71M), we think The Dead End will be the only newcomer to crack the top three this frame and the crime drama has the potential to end its run around $40M.

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By Daniel Garris

Universal Pictures has set a new record for the highest grossing year ever for a studio at the domestic box office with a yearly take of $2.113 billion to date. That surpasses the previous record of $2.105 billion that Warner Bros. grossed for the entire calendar year of 2009. The new record for Universal is made even more impressive given that the record was set with just over four months remaining in the calendar year.

Universal's highest grossing films in 2015 to date domestically are: Jurassic World ($639.8M), Furious 7 ($352.6M), Minions ($321.1M), Pitch Perfect 2 ($183.8M), Fifty Shades of Grey ($166.2M) and Straight Outta Compton ($116.8M).

Speaking of Straight Outta Compton, the F. Gary Gray directed N.W.A biopic continued to claim first place at the daily box office on Tuesday with $3.04 million. Straight Outta Compton has now led the daily box office for twelve consecutive days. The film was up 12 percent over Monday and down 58 percent from last Tuesday. Straight Outta Compton continues to outpace its already lofty pre-release expectations and is running an impressive 49 percent ahead of the $78.44 million twelve-day take of last year's Ride Along.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation held steady in second with $1.46 million. The fifth installment of the Tom Cruise led blockbuster franchise from Paramount was up 39 percent over Monday and down 40 percent from last Tuesday. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation has grossed $160.03 million in 26 days. That places the film 37 percent ahead of the $116.77 million 26-day take of 2006's Mission: Impossible III and 6 percent ahead of the $150.66 million 26-day gross of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Focus' Sinister 2 took in $1.08 million to remain in third. The low-budget horror sequel from Gramercy and Blumhouse Productions increased 21 percent over Monday's performance. Sinister 2 is off to a softer than expected start with a five-day haul of $12.52 million. The film is running a lackluster 40 percent behind the $20.71 million five-day take of 2012's Sinister.

Warner's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was up one spot and a healthy 45 percent from Monday to claim fourth on Tuesday with $1.06 million. The Guy Ritchie directed spy comedy was down 45 percent from last Tuesday. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has grossed a soft $28.33 million in twelve days. That places the film 12 percent behind the $32.06 million twelve-day gross of last year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Hitman: Agent 47 was down one spot to take fifth with $1.05 million. The video game based action film from Fox increased 33 percent over Monday. Hitman: Agent 47 is performing on the very low end of its modest expectations with a five-day start of $10.17 million. The film is running a disappointing 52 percent behind the $21.09 million five-day take of 2007's Hitman (which opened on a Wednesday).

Lionsgate's American Ultra claimed sixth place with $0.729 million. The action comedy starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg was up 24 percent over Monday. American Ultra is performing below its already modest expectations with a five-day start of just $6.77 million. The film is running just behind the $6.85 million five-day take of 2009's Adventureland, which also starred Stewart and Eisenberg.

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