Over the weekend, Denzel Washington reprised his role as CIA agent turned everyman vigilante Robert McCall in Equalizer 2. This is the first time either Washington or director Antoine Fuqua have ever agreed to work on a sequel and it has paid off, surpassing expectations with stronger ticket sales than Mama Mia! 2 and finishing the weekend at the top of the box office. While there was some surprise at the action-movie follow-up’s weekend performance, there is an explanation.
In part, Equalizer 2 managed to pull in $35.8M compared to Mama Mia! 2’s $34.4M because of the sheer personal draw of Denzel Washington.
“This definitely points to the star power of Denzel Washington and his character Robert McCall,” said Sony’s president of domestic distribution Adrian Smith. “People really loved the first movie and Denzel appeals to both male and female audiences.”
With so many well-received movies under his belt, including other Fuqua directed projects like Magnificent 7 and Training Day, Washington has the trust of an audience willing to pay to check out his latest stuff. That’s not to say Mama Mia 2’s Meryl Streep doesn’t also attract an audience, but that could be where the musical sequel fell short. Though Streep starred in the first, she is hardly in the second Mama Mia, which may have put a cap on word of mouth excitement.
However way it’s cut, both sequels did better than the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-led film, Skyscraper, which fell way below expectations with an initial $25M opening. There’s a lesson here, and it is that there is a difference between hype, or lack thereof, and reality. Experts can project success onto massive productions like Skyscraper or predict so-so performances out of unlikely action sequels like Equalizer 2, but at the end of the day, it’s audiences that have the final word.