Thriller "Taken 2" grabs movie box office crown

Sun Oct 7, 2012 1:30pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Liam Neeson thriller "Taken 2" captured the No. 1 spot on movie box office charts over the weekend with a brawny $50 million take from theaters in the United States and Canada.

"Taken 2" stars Neeson as a former CIA agent kidnapped during a vacation in Istanbul. The movie added $55 million from some 50 international markets for a global opening of $117 million including Korea where it opened earlier, distributor 20th Century Fox said.

The strong debut for "Taken 2" pushed last weekend's winner, family flick "Hotel Transylvania," to second place. The movie about a hotel run by Dracula earned $26.3 million from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters. Comedy "Pitch Perfect" snagged the No. 3 slot with $14.7 million.

North American (U.S. and Canadian) sales for "Taken 2" were more than double the original film's, which opened in January 2009 with $24.7 million and ultimately grossed a surprising $227 million around the world. The movie lifted Neeson to the ranks of Hollywood action stars, leading to roles in movies such as "Clash of the Titans" and "The Grey."

"This so exceeded our expectations going in," said Chris Aronson, executive vice president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, noting that Fox had anticipated something "in the mid-30s range" after what he called a "sluggish market" since the summer.

"The come in at $50 million is really remarkable, and a testament to this character that Liam has created," Aronson told Reuters.

The executive noted that the audience was almost evenly split male-female, and also played strongly across age groups, with more than half over the age of 25.

Fox co-financed the film with Europa Corp, the company run by "Taken" writer and director Luc Besson, and contributed $36 million to its budget, Aronson said. Reports have put the total budget at about $50 million.   Continued...

Actor Liam Neeson poses before a news conference to promote his movie, "Taken 2" in Seoul September 17, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)