Weekend Box Office: Taken 3 Takes Down the Number One Spot

Taken 3 took down the competition without breaking a sweat this weekend at the North American box office. The Liam Neeson sequel withstood bad reviews and competition from the NFL Playoffs to land one of the biggest openings ever for the month of January. Paramount expanded Selma into national release with decent results while Warner’s Inherent Vice found rougher going with a modest release. Despite the arrival of the Taken sequel, the top ten was down five percent from last year at this time.

Back in January of 2009, Twentieth Century Fox released the European-set thriller Taken during Superbowl weekend where it made an impressive $24 million in its debut. The film went on to become a long-running smash hit, earning $145 million in North America while giving star Liam Neeson’s career a second wind as an action star. Neeson returned to the role of former CIA operative Bryan Mills in 2012’s Taken 2, which withstood an army of awful reviews to earn a big $139 million. It was only a matter of time before the producers of the Taken films found a way to use Mills’ “special set of skills” one last time.

With posters and television ads proclaiming that “It Ends Here”, Taken 3 stormed 3,594 screens this weekend where it earned a bloody good $40.4 million. The opening for Taken 3 is the second best of all time for the month of January. Reviews for the latest adventure, which finds Neeson’s character on the run from the cops in Los Angeles following a murder he didn’t commit, were in line with the previous Taken film: awful. While the second chapter scored a lousy 21% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Taken 3 scored even worse with critics via a series low of 12%.

But as we all know, a film like Taken 3 was never meant to be a critical darling. It was meant for the fans that made the first two such big hits and they turned out in force to see it. The fact that this is apparently the end of the road for the series undoubtedly helped pull people in as well. The film has also earned $41 million from overseas markets.

After two weeks of strong business in limited release, Paramount expanded their Oscar contender Selma to 2,179 theaters on Friday where it went on to earn an estimated $11.2 million. Its overall total since Christmas Day stands at $13.5 million. The first weekend of wide release for the Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights drama, which arrived with a great 98% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, was a bit on the disappointing side. Given the critical love and media coverage, one would have anticipated an opening more in the range of $15-20 million.

Still, the box office road ahead should be anything but a letdown. Word-of-mouth from ticket buyers was excellent (the film received an “A+” rating on CinemaScore), the Oscar nominations come out this upcoming Thursday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, January 19th. All three factors will undoubtedly give Selma a huge boost next weekend and beyond.

Another film that was in limited release during the holidays, Warner Brothers’ Inherent Vice, expanded its run to 645 venues where it met with mixed results. The Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation of the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel landed outside the top ten where it earned an estimated $2.9 million. Overall, Vice’s gross stands at $4.4 million. Warner currently has no plans to expand the film beyond its current count, although that may change if the film lucks out with Oscar nominations on Thursday.

One Warner Oscar contender that will expand into well over 3,200 theaters next weekend is American Sniper. The Bradley Cooper drama had another spectacular weekend on just four screens in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Off only 18%, the Clint Eastwood-directed drama earned $555,000 to bring its overall total to $3.1 million.

The remainder of the top five consisted of holiday leftovers. Disney’s Into the Woods crossed the $100 million mark thanks to a $9.75 million weekend from 2,833 theaters. Off 48%, its domestic total stands at a great $105.2 million. Early overseas totals stand at $15.3 million. The musical hit may make its way domestically to the $130-135 million mark by the end of its run.

Eurotrash weren’t the only ones that got their ass kicked by Liam Neeson this weekend. Warner’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies also got its clock cleaned by the arrival of Taken 3, dropping a steep 57% to land in fourth place with $9.4 million from 3,402 theaters. With $236.5 million in the bank, the movie is looking to finish its run around $260 million, just slightly ahead of 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug. Foreign totals stand at $545 million with China is set to open the film shortly.

Universal’s drama dropped 54% in its third weekend on 3,301 screens where it earned $8.4 million to land in fifth place. Angelina Jolie’s directorial effort crossed the $100 million mark on its 18 day of release. Early foreign totals stand at $14 million. With $101 million in the bank so far, should cross the finish line with $125-130 million.

The remainder of the top ten:

6.  The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company) $7.6 million (-2%); $40.8 million

7.  Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Fox) $6.7 million (-54%); $99.5 million

8. Annie (2014) (Sony) $4.9 million (-56%); $79.4 million

9. The Woman in Black 2 (Relativity) $4.8 million (-68%); $22.3 million

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One (Lionsgate) $3.7 million (-50%) $329.5 million


For the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend next week Paddington, Blackhat, The Wedding Ringer and the nationwide expansion of American Sniper all arrive on Friday. With such a diverse selection of new product on the market don’t expect Taken 3 to stay at number one for a second week. That honor should go to either American Sniper or The Wedding Ringer.

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