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'Equalizer 3' nabs No. 1 at Labor Day weekend box office; 'Barbie' becomes biggest global hit of 2023

Sony Pictures' "The Equalizer 3" premiered in first place at the domestic box office this holiday weekend, on pace to rack up $34.5 million through Sunday, according to estimates from the measurement firm Comscore. That total is expected to rise to $42 million after Labor Day, per studio estimates.

The third installment in the action franchise is exceeding early projections, which ranged from about $28 million to $30 million (three-day) and $33 million to $40 million (four-day) for the U.S. and Canada. Internationally, the sequel has amassed $26.1 million for a worldwide cumulative of $60.6 million — the best global launch of the "Equalizer" saga.

Domestically, "The Equalizer 3" is lagging slightly behind its predecessors, "The Equalizer" and "The Equalizer 2," which each opened to about $35 million in September 2014 and July 2018, respectively.

Read more: Review: Headed for the Amalfi coast, 'The Equalizer 3' packs attitude and plenty of red sauce

The latest "Equalizer" came out during what is typically a slow weekend for movie theaters as the summer film season winds down: Families are busy transitioning back to school, and other entertainment options — such as college football — lure people away from cinemas.

Rounding out the top three at the domestic box office were Warner Bros.' "Barbie," which added $10.6 million in its seventh weekend for a North American total of $609.5 million; and Warner Bros.' "Blue Beetle," which grossed $7.3 million in its third outing for a North American cumulative of $56.6 million.

Globally, director Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" passed Universal Pictures' "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" as the highest grossing title of 2023 with a worldwide cumulative of $1.38 billion, per studio estimates. "Mario" sits at $1.36 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.

The comedy blockbuster reached the global milestone about a week after overtaking the video-game adaptation as the highest-grossing domestic release of 2023.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "The Equalizer 3" sees Denzel Washington reprise the role of former government assassin Robert McCall on a mission in this installment to protect his friends from the Italian mafia. The cast also includes David Denman and Dakota Fanning.

Read more: 'Barbie' becomes highest-grossing movie of 2023 as 'Gran Turismo' zooms to No. 1 at the box office

The feature has fared well with critics and moviegoers, scoring a solid 76% fresh rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and an A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

"The appeal of this film is watching Washington do what he does best," writes film critic Katie Walsh for Tribune News Service, "and he’s having a hell of a lot of fun here, quietly threatening bad guys, flashing toothy grins, pontificating about good and evil and the necessity to do evil in order to be good, putting the hurt on swaggering psychos."

Opening in wide release next week are Focus Features' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3" and Warner Bros.' "The Nun II."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.