Maze Runner: The Death Cure. (Source: 21st Century Fox Inc.)

‘Maze Runner’ Battles Oscar Hopefuls for Weekend Movie Fans

(Bloomberg) -- Another Hollywood sequel set in a dystopian world led the box office this weekend, but it had to contend with fans rushing to see the newest nominees for Academy Awards.

Either way 21st Century Fox Inc. was a winner. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” a poorly reviewed finale to a young-adult saga, collected $23.5 million in North American theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated Sunday in an email. It was the only new film in wide release. Meanwhile movies nominated for best picture basked in large gains. Among them: Fox’s “The Shape of Water,” which posted a 161 percent jump in weekend sales.

All the nominees for best picture are still in theaters, especially in major cities. That’s an opening for cinephiles who’ve had their fill of sequels and superheroes. “The Post,” Steven Spielberg’s film about the late Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and the Vietnam War-era controversy surrounding the Pentagon Papers, generated $8.85 million over the weekend to place fifth for Fox.

‘Maze Runner’ Battles Oscar Hopefuls for Weekend Movie Fans

Fox received a total of 27 Oscar nominations last week, the most of any studio, including 13 for “The Shape of Water” to lead the awards competition. Another Fox film and award favorite, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” boosted sales 88 percent to $3.6 million.

The third installment of “Maze Runner” turned out to be the lowest opener of the series, which has generated just $679 million worldwide since the first film opened in 2014. Each of the movies has cost about $60 million or less to produce, according to Box Office Mojo, making the series profitable if not especially popular.

In “Death Cure,” a group of youngsters race to obtain the cure for a deadly disease. The PG-13 film received 45 percent positive reviews from top critics, according to RottenTomatoes.com.

‘Maze Runner’ Battles Oscar Hopefuls for Weekend Movie Fans

The movie cost $62 million to produce, not including marketing costs. The original “Maze Runner” opened in 2014 with $32.5 million and went on to gross $348 million globally. But the sequel “The Scorch Trials” didn’t fare as well.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” placed second with $16.4 million for Sony Corp, after being forecast to collect $14.7 million, according Box Office Pro.

‘Maze Runner’ Battles Oscar Hopefuls for Weekend Movie Fans

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