Weekend Box Office: Taken 2 Dominates Weekend Worldwide, To The Tune Of $117 Million

Listen, honey. Grab some grenades and pick me up.
I’m going to give you a particular set of skills to pass your Driver’s Test.

Liam Neeson is a bigger star now more than ever. Sure, he may have played one of the greatest heroes in cinema history (Oskar Schindler from Schindler’s List – #13 on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains”), but as Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA agent with a very particular set of skills, Neeson saw his greatest success as a leading man in Taken. When Fox dumped it to theaters on Super Bowl weekend three years ago, the studio hoped it could at least duplicate its success overseas. International grosses weren’t spectacular (only $81.8 million), but the success of Taken proved to be major and an anomaly of sorts. Domestically, the film would earn $145M. It, along with Paul Blart: Mall Cop that year, became two January releases to finish in the Top 20 for total domestic earnings. You have to go back to 1997 with the special edition re-release of Star Wars the last time a January release finished with a Top 20 gross.

While Taken should have been a “one off action film for Liam Neeson,” as Scott Sawitz remarked in his review, the film’s success has propelled Neeson’s career in a new direction. One where you could almost call him the Meryl Streep of action films: a well-respected actor who has become a badass on screen. Taken‘s success may have presented Neeson in a new light, but he’s been an action badass long before playing Bryan Mills. People seem to overlook Neeson as Darkman or as the tutor for both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bruce Wayne. Now that’s truly badass.

So Taken opened up doors for Neeson to play a grizzled thespian who could be a Man of Action, like commanding an “A-Team” or punch wolves (The Grey). With a $227M global gross, Fox was definitely interested to have another Taken on its release calendar. Despite a sequel being unnecessary, pulling the whole Die Hard 2 “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” scenario, and reviews being less than stellar, audiences could care less. The opening for Taken 2 had the third-largest October bow over the weekend with an estimated $50M. (For the record, Paranormal Activity 3 owns the record.) Better than the $50M was the $67M it earned overseas. $117M for a film that cost $45M isn’t a bad way to debut. Chances are good that audiences will be taken again, probably in 2015. My only hope is that we can get Pierre Morel (who did the first Taken) back instead of Olivier Megaton (who helmed the sequel).

What is a bad way to debut is what we had with Disney’s Frankenweenie. Thought to be the big lead-in feature of the Halloween season, unfortunately, it arrived the week after Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania. Frankenweenie may be Tim Burton’s most personal film ever – if not ever at least since Ed Wood – but the film’s target demographic has already had its share of creepy crawly animated features, if you include Focus Features’ ParaNorman from August. Not helping its box office is the fact that it is is a stop-motion animated black-and-white release. $11.5M overall while playing on 3,005 screens makes for a weak per-screen average. To compare, Taken 2 played on 3,661 screens and had a per-screen average of $13,657.

The performance of Frankenweenie surely won’t hurt any future Burton/Disney pairings. A billion-dollar release (Alice in Wonderland) means that the studio won’t be quick to cut ties with the eccentric director. But coming a few months after Warner Bros.’ poor performing Dark Shadows and Burton has had two big-money losers this year. It’s a shame, because Frankenweenie is a good movie, but the audience just isn’t there. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean Burton will be quick to go back to something as big as Wonderland and instead try another small picture for a change. I would love for him to make the essential Vincent Price docudrama a la Ed Wood.

Last week’s #1, Hotel Transylvania, fell a spot, but that’s the norm with computer-animated family features. Going from $42M opening to a second weekend gross of $26.3M isn’t a bad drop. In the coming weeks it will stabilize with Halloween forthcoming and be a decent hit for Sony Pictures. After a strong limited opening last weekend, Universal’s Pitch Perfect saw expansion and hefty earnings. Upon seeing the screening, I knew that word-of-mouth would travel far to make this college musical (if team A Capella performance at a university setting can be considered a college musical) a solid performer.

Taken 2 may be the leave your brain at the door feature of week, but at least a similar, smarter demographic is willing to pass on Neeson: Man of Action to see Looper. If it finishes with $70-$80M (it’s at $40.3 million now), that will be another victory for Sony Pictures. It will be interesting to see how it performs on an international level. Last week, it made a reported $23M in China. Considering that part of the film is set internationally, that plus Bruce Willis’ worldwide appeal may make Rian Johnson’s third feature a global hit.

Outside of the top five, all of which made $11M or more, the rest of the top ten looks to be nearing the end of their theatrical runs. End of Watch, the best police procedural film in many moons started strong but dropped quickly. Though it should be a big seller/renter on home video. House at the End of the Street is a cheapie horror release that served as Jennifer Lawrence getting out her horror angst before starting production on sequels for The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class. Then you have Clint Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve, which looks like it is playing ball only with Eastwood devotees and no one else.

Oscar season is still early, but that’s not stopping The Weinstein Company from pushing Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master to the moon. Adding screens to bring its total to 864, the film will finish in the top 10 for the third consecutive week. The film, which will likely see nominations for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman (and possibly Amy Adams), may have been pushed too fast, too soon, but i’ts one of those watercooler movies for the moment. Also, pay attention to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Once the box office actuals come out, it may overtake Finding Nemo 3D to finish in the top ten. This film has also been getting good word out mouth from viewers. I sat with a paid audience that actually applauded once it was over. It also helps that the film is the closest we’ve had to a John Hughes film in quite some time. Clueless, Superbad, Mean Girls and Dazed and Confused are in the discussion, but in a direct comparison nothing comes close to Wallflower and its depiction of “misfit toys,” the outcasts of the high school scene. Ezra Miller, who was relavatory in We Need to Talk About Kevin, again delivers an amazing performance as one of the misfit toys, Patrick, a high school senior that is comfortable with his homosexuality.

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Source: Box Office Mojo