- The Equalizer 3 box office: Once again directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Richard Wenk, and starring Denzel Washington, the third entry in Sony Pictures’ The Equalizer franchise had a significantly more modest domestic debut than its predecessors – once inflation is factored in.
The Equalizer 3 box office: Costliest entry in Denzel Washington’s action-thriller franchise will have a tough time recovering its production and marketing costs at theaters
Sept. 1–4 (Labor Day) weekend box office: Bringing back director Antoine Fuqua, screenwriter Richard Wenk, and actor Denzel Washington as the well-armed vigilante Robert McCall, Columbia/Sony Pictures’ The Equalizer 3 easily topped the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office chart this past (four-day) Labor Day weekend, grossing $42.8 million from 3,965 theaters (Fri.–Sun.: $34.6 million; both figures include an estimated $3.8 million from Thursday previews) according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
The good news: Box office pundits have been extolling the fact that, Hollywood strikes or no, The Equalizer 3 had the second biggest Labor Day weekend opening ever (not adjusted for inflation), trailing only – by a wide, wide margin – the Walt Disney Studios’ Destin Daniel Cretton-directed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which, while the world was still very much in the throes of the COVID pandemic, debuted with $94.7 million (4-day figure) from 4,300 locations in 2021.
The bad news: Box office pundits have been ignoring that The Equalizer 3 was budgeted at a reported $70 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses). If accurate, that means this latest Fuqua-Wenk-Washington collaboration will need to earn around $210–$220 million at the global box office to break even – whereas neither The Equalizer nor The Equalizer 2 managed to reach $200 million worldwide.
Inflation giveth, inflation taketh away
But what about inflation?
Well, true. If inflation is taken into account – as it always should – the two previous entries in the Equalizer franchise, largely thanks to the domestic market, grossed more than $200 million worldwide. (More info further below.)
But then again, if inflation is taken into account – as it always should – the two previous entries in the Equalizer franchise grossed more than The Equalizer 3 on its domestic debut: Adjusted for inflation (three-day weekend), The Equalizer opened with (approx.) $44 million; The Equalizer 2 opened with (approx.) $42 million.
It took The Equalizer 3 four days – including a holiday – to reach $42.8 million.
Of course, one can always blame this underperformance on the ongoing actors strike, which has prevented the stars from publicizing their film. Having said that, the impact of the strike on the box office take of any individual title is debatable.
Now, can the international market come to the rescue of Denzel Washington’s trigger-happy vigilante?
Everything is possible, but don’t bet on it.
On its debut weekend, The Equalizer 3 grossed an estimated $26.1 million from 49 territories. Its top markets were the United Kingdom/Ireland ($3.5 million), France ($2.8 million), Germany ($2.4 million), Australia ($2.3 million), and Spain ($1.7 million).
Although the action thriller has yet to open in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Italy – where it remains to be seen how interested locals will be in a movie about Italians finding themselves an American Savior – its international gross to date is no more than acceptable. And that should be no surprise. After all, neither of its two predecessors were solid box office hits overseas; besides, Denzel Washington has never been a major draw outside the U.S.
Indeed, Washington’s international box office appeal is very much limited. In the last quarter of a century, his movies have almost invariably performed better – at times far better – in the domestic market than elsewhere (e.g., Training Day [$76.6 million vs. $28.2 million], The Book of Eli [$94.8 million vs. $62.3 million], Fences [$57.7 million vs. $6.7 million], The Magnificent Seven [$93.4 million vs. $68.9 million]).
The only notable exceptions – usually by a small margin – have been a handful of action titles that paired Washington with another major name (e.g., Russell Crowe in American Gangster [$130.2 million vs. $139.6 million], John Travolta in The Taking of Pelham 123 [$65.5 million vs. $84.7 million], Chris Pine in Unstoppable [$81.6 million vs. $86.2 million]).
Comparison to predecessors
Now, here are the box office grosses of the two previous movies in the Equalizer franchise:
Without the benefit of a Monday holiday, The Equalizer, also featuring Marton Csokas and Chloë Grace Moretz, opened domestically with $34.1 million from 3,236 locations in late September 2014, ending its run with $101.5 million (approx. $132 million adjusted), in addition to an estimated $90.8 million internationally. Worldwide total: A likely profitable $192.3 million. Budget: $55 million.
Once again without the benefit of a Monday holiday, The Equalizer 2, also featuring Pedro Pascal, opened domestically with $36 million from 3,388 locations in July 2018, ending its run with $102.1 million (approx. $119 million adjusted), in addition to $88.3 million internationally. Worldwide total: A likely (if modestly) profitable $190.4 million. Budget: $62 million.
So far, The Equalizer 3 has collected an estimated $68.9 million worldwide.
One (sort of) plus for the threequel
One plus for The Equalizer 3, at least for the time being (and if we take a narrow view of the available data):
Among Rotten Tomatoes’ “top critics,” The Equalizer has a mediocre 54 percent approval rating and 5.1/10 average, while The Equalizer 2 has a downright rotten 45 percent approval rating and a 5.4/10 average.
With about half as many reviews to date, The Equalizer 3 has a 78 percent approval rating.
It’s not, really. The threequel’s average is a so-so 6/10.
The Equalizer 3 cast
Besides two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Best Supporting Actor for Glory, 1989; Best Actor for Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, 2001), The Equalizer 3 features Dakota Fanning as a CIA agent and Eugenio Mastrandrea as an Amalfi Coast carabiniere.
Also: David Denman, Sonia Ben Ammar, Remo Girone, Gaia Scodellaro, Andrea Scarduzio, Andrea Dodero, Daniele Perrone, Salvatore Ruocco, Alessandro Pess, and Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter, 2010).
As mentioned further up, Richard Wenk was credited for the screenplay based on the multiple Emmy-nominated television series (1985–1989) created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, and starring Edward Woodward.
“The Equalizer 3 Box Office: Denzel Washington Actioner Trailing Predecessors” notes
Unless otherwise noted, “The Equalizer 3 Box Office: Denzel Washington Actioner Trailing Predecessors” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about The Equalizer 3 and its two predecessors being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.
Denzel Washington The Equalizer 3 movie image: Columbia Pictures | Sony Pictures Releasing.
“The Equalizer 3 Box Office: Denzel Washington Actioner Trailing Predecessors” last updated in September 2023.