Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Taken Seizes #1 Spot with Vengeful Launch

Uninvited takes residence in 3rd spot.

by | February 1, 2009 | Comments

From Pittsburgh to Arizona and everywhere in between, moviegoers were in the
mood for revenge as the Liam Neeson action
thriller Taken shot past expectations debuting
at number one over Super Bowl weekend. The frame’s other new releases, the
horror entry The Uninvited and the
comedy New in Town, debuted to
more moderate numbers while the top holdover pics posted solid holds. Overall,
the North American box office was a virtual match with year-ago numbers capping
off an impressive January at the multiplexes.

Not known for headlining commercial hits on his own, Liam Neeson anchored the
kidnapping thriller Taken and scored a huge hit
taking in an estimated $24.6M this weekend. It was the second biggest debut ever
over Super Bowl weekend trailing just
Hannah
Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
which bowed to a
colossal $31.1M last year this very session. Taken was expected to open
in the mid-teen millions and not blast past the $20M mark as it did. Fox
released the PG-13 film in 3,183 theaters and averaged a superb $7,736.

Studios have long avoided opening male-skewing action films over the Super Bowl
frame fearing that they can’t maximize their reach given the football
distractions. However, Fox’s move made sense since the big game only has a major
impact on one day leaving Friday and Saturday open for strong business. Taken
debuted on Friday to a stellar $9.4M and saw Saturday climb a healthy 24% to
$11.6M. The studio is expecting a 69% Sunday tumble to $3.6M. Reviews were
mixed.

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Fox’s marketing used the elements that have worked in recent years for the Jason
Bourne and James Bond films. Commercials used quick cutting and highlighted the
raw and gritty action scenes and hand-to-hand combat of a man on a mission.
Neeson’s name gave the film a well-respected acting talent in the lead. Taken
is the eighth film to open near or above the $20M mark in the last four weeks.

Security guard lovers kept buying tickets for the Kevin James hit Paul Blart: Mall Cop
which dropped a reasonable 35% to an estimated $14M for second place in its
third weekend. The Sony smash has locked up a stellar $83.4M to date and could
be on course to reach $125M giving the funnyman a bigger hit than the most
recent comedy offerings from A-listers Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell,
and Ben Stiller.

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Paramount released the horror remake The Uninvited
hoping to lure in teenage girls but settled for a mediocre third place debut
with an estimated $10.5M. The Americanized version of the Korean thriller A
Tale of Two Sisters
averaged a decent $4,485 from 2,344 locations. The PG-13
fright flick’s opening did not match the bows of other horror films released
over Super Bowl weekend like 2006’s When a Stranger Calls ($21.6M),
2005’s Boogeyman ($19M), or even last year’s Hong Kong remake The Eye
($12.4M). Budgeted at $20M, The Uninvited attracted an audience that was
evenly split between males and females with 50% of the audience being in the
18-34 age bracket, according to the studio.

The box office has been kind to all dog movies, even the Paramount kidpic Hotel for Dogs
which slipped only 32% in its third lap to an estimated $8.7M. With a sturdy
$48.2M banked in 17 days, the PG-rated comedy looks set to reach about $75M
giving Nickelodeon Films another winner.

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Gran Torino
became the highest-grossing film ever for Clint Eastwood thanks to its weekend
estimate of $8.6M which pushed the robust cume up to $110.5M. Off 47%, the
Warner Bros. release may find its way to about $130M. Though Clint’s biggest
grosser, Torino has still sold fewer tickets than some of the Oscar
winner’s hits from the 1990s. Its admissions estimate of 15 million is far from
the estimated 24 million stubs sold a piece for 1992’s Unforgiven and
1993’s In the Line of Fire.

Suffering the smallest drop in the top ten, Slumdog Millionaire
dropped a notch to sixth with an estimated $7.7M for a 28% decline. Fox
Searchlight added 222 theaters to the Oscar nominee’s run and averaged $4,703
for the second best average of any film in wide release. Cume to date is $67.2M
nearly half of which has come since winning four Golden Globes on January 11.
Slumdog
surpassed Little Miss Sunshine to become the third biggest
grosser in company history for Searchlight trailing past Best Picture contenders
Juno ($143.5M) and Sideways ($71.5M). Helmer Danny Boyle won the
top prize from the Directors Guild of America this weekend adding to the film’s
long list of awards.

Sony’s werewolf thriller Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
suffered the worst decline in the top ten crashing 65% to an estimated $7.2M.
The drop was more severe than those witnessed by the first two installments in
the franchise which were 57% for 2003’s Underworld and 58% for 2006’s
Underworld: Evolution
. Budgeted at $35M, Lycans has grossed $32.8M in
the first ten days and should end up at around $45M before finding a new
audience on DVD.

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Oscar winner Renée Zellweger showed little box office muscle with her new comedy New in Town
which bowed to an estimated $6.8M from 1,941 sites for a mild $3,479 average.
The PG-rated pic from Lionsgate co-starred Harry Connick Jr. and drew mostly
poor marks from critics. Town was released as counter-programming hoping to
attract adult women over the Super Bowl frame.

Tumbling 58% to ninth was the horror pic My Bloody Valentine 3D
with an estimated $4.3M giving Lionsgate $44.6M to date. Rounding out the top
ten was the fantasy adventure Inkheart
with an estimated $3.7M, down 51%, for a $12.8M total after ten days. The Warner
Bros. release should struggle to a $20-22M finish.

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Among Oscar nominees for Best Picture, Paramount’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
dropped down to eleventh place with an estimated $3.6M, off 41%, raising the
total to $116.5M – tops among the five contenders. Universal saw its political
drama Frost/Nixon
tumble 54% to an estimated $1.4M giving the pic a $14.3M cume. Per-theater
averages were unimpressive figures of $1,698 and $1,265, respectively.

The two remaining nominees for the Academy’s top honor both expanded and saw
sales increase although their averages were diluted down to weak levels. The Reader  widened
from 367 to 1,002 sites and grossed an estimated $2.4M, up 69% while Milk
expanded from 250 to 882 locations and collected an estimated $1.4M, up 60%.
That represented a $2,369 average and $12.6M sum for The Weinstein Co. release
and a $1,603 average and $23.4M tally for the Focus pic.

Other films trying to parlay Academy Award nominations into box office gold saw
mixed results this weekend. Revolutionary Road
which failed to score any nods for lead acting, writing, directing, or picture,
fell 49% to an estimated $2.7M giving Paramount Vantage $16M to date. Fox
Searchlight’s The Wrestler
starring nominees Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei took in an estimated $2.4M,
down 37%, for a $13.1M cume. Miramax expanded Doubt by 198 theaters and saw
sales slip only 6% to an estimated $801,000 upping the total to $27.9M. Averages
were $3,255 for Wrestler, $2,469 for Road, and $1,331 for Doubt.

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The top ten films grossed an estimated $96M which was up a scant 1% from last
year when Hannah Montana opened in the top spot with $31.1M; and up a
stellar 45% from 2007 when The Messengers debuted at number one with
$14.7M.