Weekend Box Office (January 9 - 11, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Audiences lined up for Liam Neeson one last time as the final chapter of his signature franchise, Taken 3, stormed the North American box office with a muscular performance opening to $39.2M, according to final studio figures. It ranks as the third best January debut of all-time behind just Ride Along which bowed to $41.5M a year ago and Cloverfield's $40.1M from 2008.

The gross was down from the $49.5M of Taken 2 from 2012 but up sharply from the $24.7M launch of 2009's first film which became a sleeper hit. Taken 3 attacked 3,594 locations and averaged a fantastic $10,908. The third chapter impressed on Saturday and actually rose 5% from Friday. Threequels are generally front-loaded, Friday grosses include Thursday night pre-shows, and this particular Saturday featured the distraction of two high-profile NFL playoff games so to witness any increase was remarkable.

Demographic data from Fox showed that Taken 3's audience was 54% male, 64% over 25, and 54% non-white. Critics slammed the PG-13 offering which is common for action threequels, but paying audiences were generally satisfied as the CinemaScore grade was a decent B+. Produced for $48M, including a hefty payday for Neeson, Taken 3 should be another moneymaker especially as international appeal for the Luc Besson-produced films has always been substantial for this franchise. The three films combined may end with about $900M in global box office off of $120M in combined budgets.

Jumping up to second place in its first weekend of nationwide play was the MLK drama Selma which grossed $11.3M from 2,179 locations for a mediocre $5,189 average. It was a disappointing showing for what has been a hot film during awards season with the PG-13 pic earning rave reviews across the board, plenty of nominations from numerous film groups, and having a very relevant true story about civil rights for blacks in America. The wide opening was less than half of the $24.6M for The Butler and the $27.5M of 42 - other dramas about real African American men from recent history. Both played in more theaters, however Selma's average was down 39% vs. Butler's $8,400 and off 44% compared to 42's $9,153.

But Selma does have plenty of upside in its near future. Next weekend is likely to post strong numbers given that it is the long MLK holiday frame. Plus many Oscar nominations are expected this Thursday including Best Picture which will ignite interest immediately. In addition, the Paramount release's glowing A+ CinemaScore indicates a bright road ahead as those who did show up loved the film and will be recommending it. The studio is hoping that this was more like a preview session which will spark positive buzz going into next weekend when more people will be in the mood to see Selma. Cume to date including the limited run over the holidays is now $13.6M.

Studio research showed that Selma played older, as expected, with 83% of the audience for the 1965-set film being over 25. Females made up 61% for the Oprah-backed project. The racial breakdown was 43% black, 40% white, and 17% other. Though a story about famous Americans, the cast was led by England-born actors who played Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Governor George Wallace. With a $20M production budget and promising weeks ahead, Selma should be able to reach profitability.

The Disney musical Into The Woods ranked third with $9.6M breaking the $100M mark in the process. Adding 295 more locations, the PG-rated pic fell 49% and lifted its sum to $105.1M. A final of around $130M is possible unless the Meryl Streep starrer grabs some major love from Academy Award nominations which will be announced later this week.

All Middle Earth reigns come to a conclusion and like its predecessors, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies dropped out of the top spot after three weeks as king. The final Peter Jackson epic fell a sharp 57% to $9.4M boosting the domestic total to $236.5M which is just slightly ahead of the $231.9M that the last film The Desolation of Smaug had grossed in the same number of days. That chapter enjoyed a better fourth weekend take of $15.7M. Armies may end up with roughly $260M from North America edging out the $258.4M of Smaug.

Falling 55% was Angelina Jolie's war drama Unbroken with $8.2M boosting Universal's total to $101.4M. It has become the tenth $100M+ domestic hit of Jolie's career, but the first as a director. The final take should reach the neighborhood of $120M unless it scores a number of major Oscar nominations.

The Weinstein Co. expanded its awards contender The Imitation Game from 754 to 1,566 locations to have its product everywhere by the time Oscar nominations come out on Thursday morning. Off just 7%, the Benedict Cumberbatch hit remained strong with $7.2M and $40.4M to date possibly heading to the $70M range. Comedy threequel Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb followed with $6.7M, down 54%, for a new total of $99.5M for Fox right on the verge of joining the century club.

Falling 58% was the musical Annie with $4.8M giving Sony a solid $79.3M overall. Close behind was the horror sequel The Woman in Black 2 which took a 69% nosedive in its sophomore session to $4.6M. Relativity has banked $22.2M.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 rounded out the top ten with $3.8M in its eighth round, down 50%. Lionsgate has collected $329.5M to date and is one week away from surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy to become the highest-grossing domestic film from 2014.

The top ten films grossed $104.7M which was down 7% from last year when Lone Survivor expanded and hit number one with $37.8M; and also down 7% from 2013 when Zero Dark Thirty opened wide in the top spot with $24.4M.

Compared to projections, Taken 3 opened higher than my $29M forecast while Selma came in below my $20M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Watch the NEW trailer for Ant-Man. Check the chart of Golden Globe nominees.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Wedding Ringer, Paddington, and Blackhat all open and American Sniper expands nationwide.

# Title Jan 9 - 11 Jan 2 - 4 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Taken 3 $ 39,201,657 3,594 1 $ 10,908 $ 39,201,657 Fox
2 Selma 11,307,394 633,173 2,179 3 5,189 13,594,343 Paramount
3 Into The Woods 9,554,755 18,728,441 -49.0 2,833 3 3,373 105,076,684 Disney
4 Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies 9,377,118 21,732,090 -56.9 3,402 4 2,756 236,459,605 Warner Bros.
5 Unbroken 8,170,305 18,169,840 -55.0 3,301 3 2,475 101,404,575 Universal
6 The Imitation Game 7,213,862 7,772,527 -7.2 1,566 7 4,607 40,430,301 Weinstein Co.
7 Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb 6,718,622 14,518,274 -53.7 3,371 4 1,993 99,542,110 Fox
8 Annie 4,750,304 11,251,393 -57.8 2,856 4 1,663 79,268,354 Sony
9 The Woman in Black 2 4,648,460 15,027,415 -69.1 2,602 2 1,786 22,157,565 Relativity
10 Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 3,765,893 7,559,954 -50.2 2,063 8 1,825 329,540,446 Lionsgate
11 Inherent Vice 2,773,260 251,393 645 5 4,300 4,352,225 Warner Bros.
12 Wild 2,677,814 4,564,093 -41.3 1,286 6 2,082 30,316,756 Fox Searchlight
13 Big Hero 6 2,308,936 4,754,816 -51.4 1,580 10 1,461 214,517,894 Disney
14 The Gambler 2,305,574 6,332,559 -63.6 2,121 3 1,087 32,262,888 Paramount
15 Big Eyes 1,257,289 2,610,026 -51.8 1,044 3 1,204 12,218,971 Weinstein Co.
16 Penguins of Madagascar 1,172,380 2,895,767 -59.5 1,057 7 1,109 79,850,006 Fox
17 Interstellar 1,160,152 2,460,071 -52.8 703 10 1,650 184,809,001 Paramount
18 Exodus: Gods and Kings 1,103,400 3,817,643 -71.1 1,142 5 966 63,655,505 Fox
19 The Theory of Everything 673,509 1,106,331 -39.1 408 10 1,651 25,894,537 Focus
20 Birdman 589,859 860,582 -31.5 228 13 2,587 26,337,585 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 77,611,229 $ 88,176,060 -12.0
Top 10 104,708,370 125,847,309 -16.8
Top 20 120,730,543 148,358,235 -18.6
Top 20 vs. 2014 120,730,543 136,681,051 -11.7

Last Updated: January 11, 2015 at 2:10PM ET

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