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

Uninvited takes residence in 3rd spot.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


inactive user

Jared King

I still don't think "Taken" looks good, only because it's not Liam Neeson's game. Maybe JCVD could pull it off, or Chuck Norris, then it could embrace it's B-movie status. Anyway boys and girls, it's Febuary, the WORST month for movies, NO CONTEST! We will so want to see The Crimebusters beat up the Knot Tops more than ever after Febuary wears us out. "Coraline" looks okay though. And there's no "Epic Movie" sequel, so I won't lose my mind like last year.

Feb 1 - 08:24 PM


Patrick Francis

Why oh why did you not make a joke about how the #1 spot was "Taken" by Liam Neeson?

Feb 1 - 08:36 PM


Mike PArker

Taken might not look like Neeson's game, but he does a great job in it...and lends it a believability that an A-list action star probably wouldn't have. You can believe this is just an ordinary guy (who happens to be an ex-CIA bad-@$$) doing whatever it takes to find his kid.

Really great casting...and I didn't expect to give a flip about this movie.

Feb 1 - 08:51 PM


Alejandro Marquez

As expected; Taken took the top spot.

Sad to see The Wrestler drop down that bad, but it's $6M budget is already covered.

Feb 1 - 08:52 PM

Stevie Z

Steven Zakos

taken is great flick. only a few bits they could have changed to make it 100% believable.

Feb 1 - 09:39 PM


That Guy

I can't believe Paul Blart is still number two. I thought it was a rental at best. Maybe people are really itching to see Kevin James in a movie. Maybe I missed what was so good about it. Maybe there's some kind of subliminal message embedded in the movie telling them to go back.

Feb 1 - 11:46 PM


Warren John

Saw "Taken" this weekend and thought it was great. Glad to see it at Number 1. One of the better action movies of the past few months, certainly a lot better than the horrible "Max Payne" travesty that forever sullied the memory of the computer game. People should not be put off by the "PG-13" rating since this is definately a "hard PG-13", unlike Max Payne, which was just hard to watch.

Feb 2 - 03:04 AM

Heather G.

Heather Griffiths

Thought "Taken" delivered what it promised. After fifteen minutes or so backstory, seventy minutes of Liam Neeson kicking Albanian ***. Although if I'd known a virgin was worth $300k, I might have thought twice before giving it away for free.... Was it just me, or was it creepy to watch Maggie Grace, who's got to be, what 25, or 26, channeling a gawky 17 year-old? There are no teenagers who could have run around looking stunned and screaming a lot?

Feb 2 - 06:24 AM

Dan K.

Dan Kristensen

I thought the same thing about Taken but it will blow you away.

Feb 2 - 09:39 AM


Warren John

I thought Maggie Grace looked fantastic!!!!!!
(Disclaimer: I'm a guy.)

Feb 2 - 09:43 AM

Rishi G.

Rishi Gudka

Keep going,Slumdog! You have all it takes to get past $100M, eventually. With BAFTAs next weekend and Oscars in a few weeks time, Slumdog has a lot of steam left. NO. 1 in UK for 3 consecutive weeks. Excellent!

Feb 2 - 10:00 AM

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