Liam Neeson rocked the global box office with his much-anticipated kidnapping sequel Taken 2 which scored the best opening ever for an action film in the September-October corridor grossing an estimated $50M. The Fox hit debuted in 3,661 theaters and averaged a spectacular $13,657 per location. The PG-13 film doubled the $24.7M bow of its predecessor which was released on Super Bowl weekend in January 2009. Reviews were mostly negative, however audiences disregarded critics and came out for Neeson who proved once again his ample starpower. Since Taken, he has rebranded himself as the thinking man’s action hero and ticket buyers have responded. This is the actor’s second time anchoring a number one hit this year following The Grey which debuted to $19.7M in January. He also hit number one last year in Unknown which bowed to $21.9M.
Taken 2, which involves a kidnapping plot to capture Neeson’s retired CIA agent character as well as his ex-wife and daughter who are on holiday together in Istanbul, played broadly as males made up 52% of the audience. 56% was 25 and older while the CinemaScore grade was a B+, respectable for a sequel. Friday started red hot with $18.5M, Saturday inched up 3% to $19.1M and Sunday is estimated to drop 35% to $12.4M. Action films in the fall are often affected by football on Sundays, but with Monday being the Columbus Day holiday, the studio is expecting continued solid results. Taken 2 performed much like a summer action film as movies of this genre have never opened close to $50M at this time of year. The biggest openings to date for action films in the months of September and October have been $33M for 1998’s Rush Hour and $36.5M for 2002’s Red Dragon which was a suspense thriller, but marketed to an adult action crowd.
The jump in opening weekend sales for the new Taken was similar to what the second Jason Bourne film did. The original installment The Bourne Identity debuted to $27.1M in June 2002 while the sequel The Bourne Supremacy jumped 94% to $52.5M for its debut in July 2004. Taken 2 and Supremacy both benefited from the good will that their predecessors generated during their leggy runs at the box office. People who found the films after the first three days made sure that the second time around they came out on opening weekend for another adventure with a character they grew attached to. Both franchises feature gritty action anchored by a solo hero with lethal skills. The third Bourne film soared even higher at the box office. No word yet on a third round of Taken although it would certainly make financial sense.
International moviegoers also lined up for Liam Neeson as Taken 2 grossed an estimated $55M from mostly openings in new territories. The global gross now stands at $117M with plenty more to come. It has been a busy year for Neeson. He has been on the big screen in 2012 with all of his top-grossing characters – Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars Episode I 3D release, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises, Bryan Mills in Taken 2 & Zeus in Wrath of the Titans.
Last weekend’s most popular film Hotel Transylvania dropped down to second place but still attracted a huge audience of paying customers. Sony’s PG-rated monster toon grossed an estimated $26.3M, which would be impressive as an opening weekend, and dropped by a reasonable 38%. After only ten days, the Adam Sandler-led film has spooked up a stellar $76M and could be on track to end its domestic run in the area of $140M. With nothing for kids opening until after Halloween, the road ahead looks bright for Hotel.
The college comedy Pitch Perfect expanded nationwide and landed in third place with $14.7M following its potent limited bow last week. Universal’s PG-13 pic about an all-female a cappella group averaged a good $5,320 from 2,770 theaters with holdover locations dropping by only 26%. The cume for the low-budget $17M film is now $21.6M on its way to $55M or more. Studio research showed that women made up an overwhelming portion of the audience as 81% of the crowd was female. 55% were under 25 and the film connected primarily to teen and young adult females. The studio is hoping that positive buzz will broaden the audience over the weeks ahead. Males often avoid films like these upfront, but can get drawn in down the road after hearing many recommendations from friends as was the case with Universal’s Bridesmaids last year.
The well-reviewed sci-fi actioner Looper enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend grossing an estimated $12.2M for a 41% decline. The Sony release has taken in $40.3M in ten days and looks headed for a final tally of around $70M.
Opening poorly in fifth place was Tim Burton’s animated film Frankenweenie with an estimated $11.5M from 3,005 theaters for a mild $3,827 average. It was the third 3D creepy comedy toon aimed at kids in the last two months and the worst performer on opening weekend. August’s ParaNorman opened better with $14.1M while last week’s Transylvania ended up opening much better than expected with $42.5M providing intense competition this weekend since both were aimed at the exact same crowd.
Despite having much better reviews, Frankenweenie was a less mainstream film with its black-and-white and claymation style making Hotel the more popular choice for families looking for a pre-Halloween laugh. The CinemaScore for the Burton pic was a decent B+ and with the pumpkin holiday still a few weeks away, the PG-rated film has a chance to show some legs if good word-of-mouth spreads. Its story about a boy who reanimates his dead dog made the appeal more narrow so strong buzz will be needed for Disney to find long-term success against its competitors.
Dropping 49% to an estimated $4M was the cop thriller End of Watch which has collected $32.8M so far for Open Road. Clint Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve followed with an estimated $3.9M, down 47%, for a $29.7M total for Warner Bros. The horror film House at the End of the Street fell 48% to an estimated $3.7M putting the Relativity release at $27.5M.
The acclaimed drama The Master held up well slipping only 31% to an estimated $1.8M for The Weinstein Co. which has grossed $12.3M to date. Disney and Pixar rounded out the top ten with its 3D release of Finding Nemo which took a sharp hit tumbling 62% to an estimated $1.6M for a $39M sum. That boosted the lifetime tally to $378.7M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $129.7M which was up a sharp 62% from last year when Real Steel debuted at number one with $27.3M; and up 69% from 2010 when The Social Network remained on top with $15.5M.