While most movie geeks were being entertained at Comic-Con 2018 in San Diego, there were enough varied moviegoers to have Denzel Washington’s “Equalizer 2” duking it out very closely with “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” sequel.

In the battle of two very different sequels at the box office this weekend, Denzel Washington’s action pic “The Equalizer 2” has narrowly won out over the ABBA jukebox musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” “Mamma Mia” sequel was projected to take first place, but Denzel was having none of that.

Studios on Sunday estimate that the R-rated Denzel Washington joint grossed $35.8 million from North American theaters over the weekend. It’s Washington’s first ever sequel and the biggest opening of director Antoine Fuqua’s career. The first “Equalizer,” from 2014, opened similarly and went on to earn over $190 million worldwide.

It’s yet another box office success for Mr. 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 Mr. 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.

Second place went to Universal Pictures’ “Mamma Mia 2,” which took in $34.4 million, a sum that was driven by an audience that was 83 percent female and 64 percent over the age of 25. The film brought back much of the original cast, like Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, and Pierce Brosnan, and added Cher, Andy Garcia and Lily James to the mix. Critics overall gave the sequel better marks than the first, which still went on to gross over $600 million worldwide 10 years ago.

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.

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“We consider this a terrific opening,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “And knowing the audience for these types of films, we are going to have a very healthy run at the domestic and worldwide box office. This is a very fun, very uplifting movie that people need right now.”

It’s also a rare showdown of two star-driven films that succeeded in targeting two very different audiences.

“It’s amazing how well-matched these contenders are,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Both studios really did a great job of marketing each of these movies to their target audience. It’s classic counter-programming.”

“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.

Sequels powered the top six spots at the domestic box office this weekend and eight out of the top 10 overall. “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” came in third with $23.2 million in its second weekend, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” took fourth place with $16.1 million in its third weekend, “Incredibles 2” landed in fifth with $11.5 million, and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” came in sixth with $11 million.

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.

The only two originals in the top 10 were “Skyscraper” and “Sorry to Bother You.”

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“People are enjoying these films,” said Dergarabedian. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a number after the title.”

And yet there are still original films and documentaries making their own modest impact on the charts, including “Blindspotting,” a buddy comedy with some serious themes about race and class starring Tony-winner Daveed Diggs that opened in 14 theaters and made an estimated $332,500.

“Movies like ‘Sorry to Bother You’ and ‘Blindspotting’ are showing that in the summer people don’t live by blockbusters alone,” Dergarabedian said.

“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.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

denzels equalizer 2 and mamma mia rule box office weekend 2018 images

  1. “The Equalizer 2,” $35.8 million ($3.3 million international).
  2. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” $34.4 million ($42.4 million international).
  3. “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” $23.2 million ($37.7 million international).
  4. “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” $16.1 million ($21.6 million international).
  5. “Incredibles 2,” $11.5 million ($36.5 million international).
  6. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” $11 million ($17.3 million international).
  7. “Skyscraper,” $11 million ($27.3 million international).
  8. “The First Purge,” $5 million ($8.9 million international).
  9. “Unfriended: Dark Web,” $3.5 million.
  10. “Sorry to Bother You,” $2.8 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

  1. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” $42.4 million.
  2. “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” $37.7 million.
  3. “Incredibles 2,” $36.5 million.
  4. “Skyscraper,” $27.3 million.
  5. “Dying to Survive,” $25.3 million.
  6. “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” $21.6 million.
  7. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” $17.3 million.
  8. “Hidden Man,” $10.4 million.
  9. “The First Purge,” $8.9 million.
  10. “Animal Crackers,” $3.7 million.

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