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LOS ANGELES, Sept 28 (Reuters) - "The Equalizer," a thriller starring Denzel Washington as a man who helps rescue a teen girl under the control of Russian gangsters, debuted in the top spot on U.S. and Canadian movie charts over the weekend with $35 million in ticket sales.
Young adult drama "The Maze Runner" dropped to second place after winning the box office race last weekend. "Maze Runner" earned $17.5 million at domestic theaters from Friday through Sunday, according to tracking firm Rentrak.
Quirky animated movie "The Boxtrolls," starring grunting green monsters that wear cardboard, finished third in its opening weekend, grossing $17.3 million.
The performance of "The Equalizer" was on par with predictions for a start around $35 million, the forecast by Boxoffice.com. Two-time Oscar winner Washington plays McCall, a trained killer who comes to the defense of the helpless, in this case a young Russian prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) in the grips of a human trafficking ring.
The movie based on a 1980s television series was produced by Sony Pictures and cost $55 million to make.
"Denzel worked hard to get the word out about this film," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony.
"Maze Runner" stars MTV "Teen Wolf" heartthrob Dylan O'Brien as one of a group of boys living in an isolated paradise where they are trapped by a giant, moving concrete maze. The film has now collected $45 million around the globe, according to distributor 20th Century Fox.
"Boxtrolls" was made by hand using stop-motion technology, where each scene is set up with puppets placed on miniature sets. The 3D film features the voices of Ben Kingsley and Elle Fanning. It is based on a book by British author Alan Snow and inspired by British comedy troupe Monty Python.
In the movie, the odd-looking Boxtrolls live underground where they raise an orphaned human boy, who later tries to find his own identity.
The movie was produced by Laika, the independent studio behind 2009's "Coraline" and 2012's "ParaNorman," and distributed by Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures.
The comedy "This is Where I Leave You" took in $7 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters, landing in fourth place. Family flick "Dolphin Tale 2" settled in the No. 5 slot with $4.8 million.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. studio distributed "This is Where I Leave You" and "Dolphin Tale 2."
Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski, editing by Aidan Martindale and Nick Zieminski