The third and final installment in Fox’s Taken series claimed an estimated $40.4 million on its first weekend. That stands as the penultimate January debut of all-time behind last year’s Ride Along ($41.5 million) and ahead of 2008’s Cloverfield ($40). Clearly, audiences didn’t mind that Taken 3 received some of the worst reviews in recent memory. The chance to see Liam Neeson’s Brian Mills exercise his now- iconic skill set one last time was enough to drive Taken 3’s estimates up almost 25% over initial projections.
|3.||Into the Woods||$9,750,000||$105.2|
|4.||The Hobbit 3||$9,435,000||$236.5|
|6.||The Imitation Game||$7,624,000||$40.8|
|7.||Night at the Museum||$6,700,000||$99.5|
|9.||The Woman in Black 2||$4,825,000||$22.3|
|10.||Mockingjay – Part 1||$3,750,000||$329.5|
Full story after the jump.
Back in January 2009, Taken was a surprise hit for 20th Century Fox. Why a surprise? It might be hard to remember, but there was a time when Liam Neeson was not the go-to guy for gritty action thrillers. In fact, before Taken, Neeson was known primarily for playing wise father figure-types in films like Gangs of New York, Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins – supporting parts, in other words. Taken proved that Neeson, at age 57, could not only carry a film but could carry an action film all on his own.
Taken wound up earning over $226 million worldwide and $145 million in domestic release. Because the film was budgeted at just $25 million, its $24.7 million debut was a revelation – not least because it came during Super Bowl weekend. Until 2009, tradition had decreed that male audiences would be too distracted by the big game to catch a movie. Super Bowl weekend was when studios chose to schedule female-skewing fare, like Dear John and the Hannah Montana concert film (still the top Super Bowl opening of all time at $31.1 million).
But opening weekend was just the start of Taken’s box office success. Unlike most action movies, the strength of the film was its longevity rather than its debut. Taken remained in the top five for seven straight weeks, seeing its steepest decline (-40%) four weeks into its run. Most films drop 50% in their sophomore frame, which helps explain why Fox focused quickly on turning the one-off action film into a global action franchise.
Opening with $49.5 million in October 2012, Taken 2 doubled its predecessor’s domestic opening. By the end of its run, the sequel also eclipsed Taken’s global cume with $376 million – though its $139.8 million domestic total fell just short of the original. Taken 2 was also more expensive (a reported $45 million before marketing), though still thrifty by studio standards. The true difference between the first two Taken titles was revealed by their reviews. Taken 2 scored a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 21%, compared to the 58% of the original. Of course, by the time the sequel came along, Liam Neeson’s tough guy persona had been cemented by films like Unknown and The Grey (not to mention The A-Team reboot and two Clash of the Titans releases) so there were few surprises left for critics.
Unfortunately, the critical bloodletting has only grown more severe with Taken 3. As of Sunday a.m., the film ranks just 12% on Rotten Tomatoes – the lowest RT score for a nationwide release since Ouija opened in late October. Audiences have naturally been kinder, awarding Taken 3 a B+ CinemaScore. That’s neither discouraging nor particularly inspiring, and with three major nationwide releases and/or expansions on deck next weekend, it would not surprise me if Taken 3 lived up to its tagline: “It Ends Here.”
Second place at this weekend’s box office went to Selma with an estimated $11.2 million: a less inspiring nationwide launch than the film’s distributor (Paramount) was expecting. Over the last two weeks, the civil rights-era drama earned just over $2 million in fewer than 25 locations. On the plus side, Selma has received overwhelming critical praise (it stood at 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes a few days ago, before falling all the way back to 98%) and, should it prevail at tonight’s Golden Globes ceremony, we can expect to see strong multiples well past the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Both Into the Woods and Unbroken crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 pulled within $3.5 million of overtaking Guardians of the Galaxy as 2014’s top-grossing release. In less happy news, last weekend’s The Woman in Black: Angel of Death was down nearly 70% in its sophomore frame. That’s not unusual for a horror title, but on top of the sequel’s less-than stellar debut of $15 million last weekend, it’s a fairly disastrous drop.
Next weekend brings two major studio titles: Paddington and The Wedding Ringer, with Kevin Hart. Both films are expected to open with over $25 million, though it’s important to note that, on the same frame last year, Hart helped Ride Along set a new January opening record with $41.5 million. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper will also open nationwide next weekend. The drama has earned incredible per-theatre averages and a total of $3.15 million through three weeks in limited release. We’ll see if that buzz translates into a comparably strong nationwide launch – something in the vein of last year’s Lone Survivor, perhaps?