Thriller 'Taken 2' earns second box office win

Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:14pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Liam Neeson thriller "Taken 2" won a battle between two hostage movies over the weekend, holding on to its top box office rankings for a second week with $22.5 million from ticket sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters.

Ben Affleck's highly praised Iran hostage thriller "Argo" was as close second, earning $20.1 million from Friday through Sunday. Low-budget horror movie "Sinister" came in third with $18.3 million, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters.

Action sequel "Taken 2" stars Neeson as a former CIA agent who is captured while on vacation in Istanbul. The movie has pulled in $86.8 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters since its debut a week ago, plus $132.8 million from international markets.

"We continue to play broadly across all demographics and it is a testament to the strength of Liam's character and the property," said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, which released the film.

With a worldwide box office total already reaching nearly $220 million, he said the film was close to equaling the final box office total of the first "Taken" movie ($226.8 million), and therefore labeled the sequel as "a much bigger movie."

"Taken 2" sales outpaced receipts for "Argo," a movie that Affleck stars in and directs. The film is based on a real-life CIA plot to smuggle six U.S. diplomats out of Iran in 1979 under the guise of a fake movie production.

The diplomats had escaped the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran at the height of the Islamic revolution. They hid at the Canadian embassy until a CIA agent came to sneak them out of the country.

"Argo" is generating buzz as an Oscar contender after earning stellar marks from critics, with 94 percent of reviews collected on the Rotten Tomatoes website praising the film. Ahead of the weekend, box-office forecasters had predicted an opening of $15 million or more.   Continued...

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