Weekend Box Office (October 5 - 7, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Liam Neeson rocked the global box office with his much-anticipated kidnapping sequel Taken 2 which scored the best opening ever for an action film in the September-October corridor grossing $49.5M, according to final studio figures. The Fox hit debuted in 3,661 theaters and averaged a spectacular $13,525 per location. The PG-13 film doubled the $24.7M bow of its predecessor which was released on Super Bowl weekend in January 2009. Reviews were mostly negative, however audiences disregarded critics and came out for Neeson who proved once again his ample starpower. Since Taken, he has rebranded himself as the thinking man's action hero and ticket buyers have responded. This is the actor's second time anchoring a number one hit this year following The Grey which debuted to $19.7M in January. He also hit number one last year in Unknown which bowed to $21.9M.

Taken 2, which involves a kidnapping plot to capture Neeson's retired CIA agent character as well as his ex-wife and daughter who are on holiday together in Istanbul, played broadly as males made up 52% of the audience. 56% was 25 and older while the CinemaScore grade was a B+, respectable for a sequel. Friday started red hot with $18.4M, Saturday inched up 3% to $18.9M and Sunday dropped only 36% to $12.2M. Action films in the fall are often affected by football on Sundays, but with Monday being the Columbus Day holiday, the studio enjoyed a solid hold. Taken 2 performed much like a summer action film as movies of this genre have never opened close to $50M at this time of year. The biggest openings to date for action films in the months of September and October have been $33M for 1998's Rush Hour and $36.5M for 2002's Red Dragon which was a suspense thriller, but marketed to an adult action crowd.

The jump in opening weekend sales for the new Taken was similar to what the second Jason Bourne film did. The original installment The Bourne Identity debuted to $27.1M in June 2002 while the sequel The Bourne Supremacy jumped 94% to $52.5M for its debut in July 2004. Taken 2 and Supremacy both benefited from the good will that their predecessors generated during their leggy runs at the box office. People who found the first films after the first three days made sure that the second time around they came out on opening weekend for another adventure with a character they grew attached to. Both franchises feature gritty action anchored by a solo anti-hero with lethal skills. The third Bourne film soared even higher at the box office. No word yet on a third round of Taken although it would certainly make financial sense.

International moviegoers also lined up for Liam Neeson as Taken 2 grossed an estimated $55M from mostly openings in new territories. The global gross now stands at $116.5M with plenty more to come. It has been a busy year for Neeson. He has been on the big screen in 2012 with all of his top-grossing characters - Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars Episode I 3D release, Ra's Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises, Bryan Mills in Taken 2 & Zeus in Wrath of the Titans.

Last weekend's most popular film Hotel Transylvania dropped down to second place but still attracted a huge audience of paying customers. Sony's PG-rated monster toon grossed $27.1M, which would be impressive as an opening weekend, and dropped by a reasonable 36%. After only ten days, the Adam Sandler-led film has spooked up a stellar $76.7M and could be on track to end its domestic run in the area of $140M. With nothing for kids opening until after Halloween, the road ahead looks bright for Hotel.

The college comedy Pitch Perfect expanded nationwide and landed in third place with $14.8M following its potent limited bow last week. Universal's PG-13 pic about an all-female a cappella group averaged a good $5,360 from 2,770 theaters with holdover locations dropping by only 26%. The cume for the low-budget $17M film is now $21.7M on its way to $55M or more. Studio research showed that women made up an overwhelming portion of the audience as 81% of the crowd was female. 55% were under 25 and the film connected primarily to teen and young adult females. The studio is hoping that positive buzz will broaden the audience over the weeks ahead. Males often avoid films like these upfront, but can get drawn in down the road after hearing many recommendations from friends as was the case with Universal's Bridesmaids last year.

The well-reviewed sci-fi actioner Looper enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend grossing $12.1M for a 42% decline. The Sony release has taken in $40.2M in ten days and looks headed for a final tally of around $70M.

Opening poorly in fifth place was Tim Burton's animated film Frankenweenie with $11.4M from 3,005 theaters for a mild $3,798 average. It was the third 3D creepy comedy toon aimed at kids in the last two months and the worst performer on opening weekend. August's ParaNorman opened better with $14.1M while last week's Transylvania ended up opening much better than expected with $42.5M providing intense competition this weekend since both were aimed at the exact same crowd.

Despite having much better reviews, Frankenweenie was a less mainstream film with its black-and-white and stop-motion style making Hotel the more popular choice for families looking for a pre-Halloween laugh. The CinemaScore for the Burton pic was a decent B+ and with the pumpkin holiday still a few weeks away, the PG-rated film has a chance to show some legs if good word-of-mouth spreads. Its story about a boy who reanimates his dead dog made the appeal more narrow so strong buzz will be needed for Disney to find long-term success against its competitors.

Dropping 49% to $4M was the cop thriller End of Watch which has collected $32.9M so far for Open Road. Clint Eastwood's Trouble with the Curve followed with $3.8M, down 47%, for a $29.7M total for Warner Bros. The horror film House at the End of the Street fell 47% to $3.8M putting the Relativity release at $27.6M.

The acclaimed drama The Master held up well slipping only 31% to $1.9M for The Weinstein Co. which has grossed $12.3M to date. Disney and Pixar rounded out the top ten with its 3D release of Finding Nemo which took a sharp hit tumbling 60% to $1.6M for a $39M sum. That boosted the lifetime tally to $378.7M.

The top ten films grossed $130M which was up a sharp 62% from last year when Real Steel debuted at number one with $27.3M; and up 69% from 2010 when The Social Network remained on top with $15.5M.

Compared to projections, Taken 2 surged ahead of my $37M forecast, Pitch Perfect opened close to my $16M prediction, and Frankenweenie was below my $15M projection.

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

Watch the NEW trailer for The Lone Ranger. Read the Blu-ray review for Cinderella.

For a review of Hotel Transylvania visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Argo, Sinister, Here Comes the Boom, Seven Psychopaths, and Atlas Shrugged Part II all open.

# Title Oct 5 - 7 Sep 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Taken 2 $ 49,514,769 3,661 1 $ 13,525 $ 49,514,769 Fox
2 Hotel Transylvania 27,053,395 42,522,194 -36.4 3,352 2 8,071 76,711,927 Sony
3 Pitch Perfect 14,846,830 5,149,433 188.3 2,770 2 5,360 21,698,038 Universal
4 Looper 12,116,001 20,801,552 -41.8 2,993 2 4,048 40,216,652 Sony
5 Frankenweenie 11,412,213 3,005 1 3,798 11,412,213 Disney
6 End of Watch 4,004,071 7,812,077 -48.7 2,370 3 1,689 32,850,017 Open Road
7 Trouble with the Curve 3,829,153 7,277,385 -47.4 3,003 3 1,275 29,668,976 Warner Bros.
8 House at the End of the Street 3,756,023 7,122,347 -47.3 2,720 3 1,381 27,589,167 Relativity
9 The Master 1,861,703 2,680,554 -30.5 864 4 2,155 12,337,032 Weinstein Co.
10 Finding Nemo 3D 1,624,536 4,035,826 -59.7 1,746 4 930 39,038,997 Disney
11 The Perks of Being a Wallflower 1,566,526 1,103,946 41.9 221 3 7,088 3,348,865 Summit
12 Resident Evil: Retribution 1,158,066 2,986,356 -61.2 1,361 4 851 41,008,796 Sony
13 Won't Back Down 1,016,157 2,603,370 -61.0 2,517 2 404 4,483,670 Fox
14 English Vinglish 745,414 88 1 8,471 745,414 Eros
15 The Dark Knight Rises 674,436 789,429 -14.6 575 11 1,173 445,369,641 Warner Bros.
16 Dredd 645,241 2,363,956 -72.7 831 3 776 12,695,655 Lionsgate
17 Arbitrage 641,365 869,407 -26.2 244 3 2,629 6,053,621 Roadside Attr.
18 The Possession 623,500 1,362,404 -54.2 821 6 759 48,391,383 Lionsgate
19 The Bourne Legacy 344,630 782,800 -56.0 482 8 715 112,275,305 Universal
20 Lawless 326,661 867,807 -62.4 611 6 535 37,001,460 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 114,943,208 $ 85,535,555 34.4
Top 10 130,018,694 102,991,094 26.2
Top 20 137,760,690 113,084,212 21.8
Top 20 vs. 2011 137,760,690 91,198,814 51.1

Last Updated: October 8, 2012 at 4:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.