Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Taken 3 Takes the Top Spot

Selma and Into the Woods round out the top three.

by | January 11, 2015 | Comments

Audiences lined up for Liam Neeson one last time as the final chapter of his signature franchise, Taken 3, stormed the North American box office with a muscular performance opening to an estimated $40.4M. If the estimate holds, it will rank as the second best January debut of all-time behind just Ride Along which bowed to $41.5M a year ago.

The gross was down from the $49.5M of Taken 2 from 2012 but up sharply from the $24.7M launch of 2009’s first film which became a sleeper hit. Taken 3 attacked 3,594 locations and averaged a fantastic $11,241. The third chapter impressed on Saturday and actually rose 5 percent from Friday. Threequels are generally front-loaded, Friday grosses include Thursday night pre-shows, and this particular Saturday featured the distraction of two high-profile NFL playoff games so to witness any increase was remarkable.

Demographic data from Fox showed that Taken 3‘s audience was 54 percent male, 64 percent over 25, and 54 percent non-white. Critics slammed the PG-13 offering which is common for action threequels, but paying audiences were generally satisfied as the CinemaScore grade was a decent B+. Produced for $48M, including a hefty payday for Neeson, Taken 3 should be another moneymaker especially as international appeal for the Luc Besson-produced films has always been substantial for this franchise. The three films combined may end with about $900M in global box office off of $120M in combined budgets.

Jumping up to second place in its first weekend of nationwide play was the MLK drama Selma which grossed an estimated $11.2M from 2,179 locations for a mediocre $5,140 average. It was a disappointing showing for what has been a hot film during awards season with the PG-13 pic earning rave reviews across the board, plenty of nominations from numerous film groups, and having a very relevant true story about civil rights for blacks in America. The wide opening was less than half of the $24.6M for The Butler and the $27.5M of 42 – other dramas about real African American men from recent history. Both played in more theaters, however Selma‘s average was down 39 percent vs. Butler‘s $8,400 and off 44 percent compared to 42‘s $9,153.

But Selma does have plenty of upside in its near future. Next weekend is likely to post strong numbers given that it is the long MLK holiday frame. Plus many Oscar nominations are expected this Thursday including Best Picture which will ignite interest immediately. In addition, the Paramount release’s glowing A+ CinemaScore indicates a bright road ahead as those who did show up loved the film and will be recommending it. The studio is hoping that this was more like a preview session which will spark positive buzz going into next weekend when more people will be in the mood to see Selma. Cume to date including the limited run over the holidays is now $13.5M.

Studio research showed that Selma played older, as expected, with 83 percent of the audience for the 1965-set film being over 25. Females made up 61 percent for the Oprah-backed project. The racial breakdown was 43 percent black, 40 percent white, and 17 percent other. Though a story about famous Americans, the cast was led by England-born actors who played Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Governor George Wallace. With a $20M production budget and promising weeks ahead, Selma should be able to reach profitability.

The Disney musical Into The Woods ranked third with an estimated $9.8M breaking the $100M mark in the process. Adding 295 more locations, the PG-rated pic fell 48 percent and lifted its sum to $105.3M. A final of around $130M is possible unless the Meryl Streep starrer grabs some major love from Academy Award nominations which will be announced later this week.

All Middle Earth reigns come to a conclusion and like its predecessors, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies dropped out of the top spot after three weeks as king. The final Peter Jackson epic fell a sharp 57 percent to an estimated $9.4M boosting the domestic total to $236.5M which is just slightly ahead of the $231.9M that the last film The Desolation of Smaug had grossed in the same number of days. That chapter enjoyed a better fourth weekend take of $15.7M. Armies may end up with roughly $260M from North America edging out the $258.4M of Smaug.

Falling 54 percent was Angelina Jolie’s war drama Unbroken with an estimated $8.4M boosting Universal’s total to $101.6M. It has become the tenth $100M+ domestic hit of Jolie’s career, but the first as a director. The final take should reach the neighborhood of $120M unless it scores a number of major Oscar nominations.

The Weinstein Co. expanded its awards contender The Imitation Game from 754 to 1,566 locations to have its product everywhere by the time Oscar nominations come out on Thursday morning. Off just 2 percent, the Benedict Cumberbatch hit remained strong with an estimated $7.6M and $40.8M to date possibly heading to the $70M range. Comedy threequel Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb followed with an estimated $6.7M, down 54 percent, for a new total of $99.5M for Fox right on the verge of joining the century club.

Falling 56 percent was the musical Annie with an estimated $4.9M giving Sony a solid $79.4M overall. Close behind was the horror sequel The Woman in Black 2 which took a 68 percent nosedive in its sophomore session to an estimated $4.8M. Relativity has banked $22.3M.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.8M in its eighth round, down 50 percent. Lionsgate has collected $329.5M to date and is one week away from surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy to become the highest-grossing domestic film from 2014.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $107M which was down 5 percent from last year when Lone Survivor expanded and hit number one with $37.8M; and down 5 percent from 2013 when Zero Dark Thirty opened wide in the top spot with $24.4M.

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