Denzel Washington and ABBA Thrive at the Box Office

Posted July 22, 2018 2:42 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2018 2:48 p.m. EDT

In 1977, a Swedish pop group embarked on its first world tour, while a young New York-born actor made his screen acting debut. Forty one years later, ABBA and Denzel Washington show few signs of slowing down. Washington’s “The Equalizer 2” topped the box office over the weekend, while the ABBA-based musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was a close second.

Going into the weekend, the star-studded “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was projected to take first place. But Washington’s revenge action film from Sony surpassed its expectations, storming past the jukebox musical to rake in $35.8 million.

It’s yet another box office success for Washington, 63, whose last decade has consisted of an uninterrupted string of hits, from “The Magnificent Seven” to “Flight” to “Safe House.” “The Equalizer,” which was directed by Washington’s frequent collaborator Antoine Fuqua, more or less matched the opening weekend returns of its highly successful predecessor when adjusted for inflation, and received a top-notch A CinemaScore. The film’s gross should easily surpass its budget of $62 million in the coming weeks.

Universal’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” pulled in $34.4 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. The movie stars Lily James as a young Donna Sheridan (with brief scenes of Meryl Streep reprising that role) as well as Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Cher and other big names. Despite dipping into ABBA’s lesser-known catalog, the film did even better than its predecessor, which made $27.7 million in 2008. The film also unsurprisingly thrived in Europe, given its Greek location and Swedish roots; it has now made $76.8 total worldwide.

“Mamma Mia!” and “The Equalizer 2” excelled by courting extremely different audiences. According to CinemaScore exit polls, the audience for “Mamma Mia!” was 83 percent female and 68 percent Caucasian; “The Equalizer 2” drew an audience that was 58 percent male and 53 percent Hispanic and African-American.

Blumhouse, the horror studio behind low-budget hits like “Get Out” and “Happy Death Day,” tallied another modest success with “Unfriended: Dark Web.” The found-footage film, which was made for about $1 million, depicts a group of friends who start using a laptop with access to the dark web, only to find they are being watched by the laptop’s original owners. The film made $3.5 million over the weekend, good for ninth place.

“Eighth Grade,” a critically adored teen movie directed by Bo Burnham, made $794,370 over the weekend as it continues its gradual rollout. The A24 film has made $1.2 million across two weeks and will expand wide on Aug. 4.