It’s a weekend box office worth celebrating, with grosses up more than 50% from 2011. That success was almost entirely due to Taken 2, which delivered an estimated $50 million from 3,661 runs for one of the highest October debuts of all time. On the other end of the spectrum, Disney’s Frankenweenie failed to impress; opening in fifth place with an estimated $11.5 million from 3,005 runs despite weeks of heavy promotion.
|6.||End of Watch||$4,000,000||$32.8|
|7.||Trouble with the Curve||$3,870,000||$29.7|
|8.||House at the End of the Street||$3,698,000||$27.5|
|10.||Finding Nemo 3D||$1,555,000||$38.9|
On the heels of a much-improved late-September frame, October got off to a promising start thanks to the muscular debut of Taken 2 – it’s estimated $50 million representing the third-highest October opening of all time behind last year’s Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.5 million) and 2010’s Jackass 3D ($50.3 million).
Back in January 2009, Taken became a surprise hit for 20th Century Fox – earning over $226 million worldwide from a reported budget of just $25 million. Over 60% of that total came from US theatres, where Taken debuted with $24.7 million. Unlike most big hits, however, the strength of the film was its longevity and not its opening weekend gross. Taken remained in the top five for seven straight weeks, and saw its steepest decline at 40% four weeks into its run. Knowing that most films take a 50% hit in their second week alone helps explain why the Taken sequel became an instant priority at Fox.
Three years after the original, Taken 2 should equal its progenitor’s financial success; though it will take a different path to get there. The sequel was more expensive (a reported $80 million) so it has a bit farther to travel to make it past profitable. Of course, much of that ground has already been covered by this weekend’s big US opening, which more than doubled the bow of Taken. This time around, however, there is almost no chance that the film will deliver the kind of incredible week-to-week holds Fox saw in 2009. Audiences now know what to expect from an angry Liam Neeson and, with a current Rotten Tomato score of 20%, the chance that Taken 2 will catch another word-of-mouth wave is slim to none.
What will save Taken 2 in the end is… you guessed it! International grosses. Even with its Parisian pedigree, Taken was a very-American box office success story. By now, the rest of the world has learned to appreciate Neeson’s “very particular set of skills” and can probably be relied upon to push Taken 2 to a final gross at least as impressive as the original.
The weekend’s second new title did not make quite as big an impression on the box office as Taken 2. While Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania continued to court success, falling just 38% to bring its domestic total to almost $76 million in 10 days, Disney found little love for its own Halloween-themed animated feature: Frankenweenie.
Fans of Tim Burton will remember the live-action short ‘Frankenweenie’ that was shelved by Disney back in 1984. After the success of Beetlejuice and Batman, however, the studio released that first Frankenweenie on home video, and it has remained a fan-favorite ever since. For more general audiences, however, the feature-length Frankenweenie proved a harder sell. Though released in 3D, Real D and IMAX 3D, the film has an old-fashioned look: with black and white cinematography and stop motion animated effects. That hasn’t proved an obstacle for Burton fans or critics (the film has an excellent 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) but, for family audiences who approved of Hotel Transylvania’s colorful, computer-generated look, the pleasures of Frankenweenie went largely unappreciated.
Back in 2005, Burton’s last stop-motion feature Corpse Bride debuted to $19.1 million. With its added 3D surcharge, Disney was probably hoping for a similar opening from Frankenweenie – though most projections put the film more in line with Coraline’s $16.8 million debut from 2009. That makes today’s $11.5 million estimate much more disappointing, especially considering that ParaNorman – another monster-themed, stop-motion-animated, 3D effort – debuted with $14 million back in August.
Though the big win was claimed by Hotel Transylvania, last weekend’s per-screen champion was Pitch Perfect. Universal opened the comedy in 335 locations: a smart move that paid off with to the tune of $5.1 million. Pitch Perfect expanded into 2,770 locations on Friday; and while its $14.7 million meant a lower per-screen average, the estimate was well ahead of most projections.
With two strong frames behind us thanks to Hotel Transylvania and Taken 2, the box office faces a financial question mark next weekend. Two films will open in over 3,000 locations – Here Comes the Boom, with Kevin James, and Argo, with Ben Affleck. Since the height of his Paul Blart popularity, James has stumbled with features like Zookeeper. Argo is already a hit with critics; but whether mass-market audiences will embrace the drama is far less certain. The good news is that neither film has very far to go to give the box office another win. One year ago next week, the number one film was Real Steel with just $16.2 million so, as long as Boom can deliver a $20 million opening, the box office winning streak should continue.