Action pic "Taken" primed to take box-office crown

Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:56pm EST
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Even a preschooler could tell you where his dad and older brothers will be Sunday -- on the living-room couch watching the Super Bowl. Where they won't be is the neighborhood multiplex.

As a result, studios tend to schedule movies to open over Super Bowl weekend that appeal primarily to women.

Last year, the tactic saw 3-D "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert" break big with teens, tweens and moms. Yet this time around, only one of three films opening wide Friday is a clear chick flick: Lionsgate's romantic comedy "New in Town."

But that film, starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., looks like the weakest debutant in the bunch, according to prerelease surveys of prospective moviegoers. The strongest new pic: Fox's "Taken," an action thriller about an ex-spy out to rescue his daughter from the slave trade.

20th Century Fox hopes to attract ample female interest with a star stint by Liam Neeson in the PG-13 film. But executives admitted that they also are gunning for the guys despite the obvious preoccupation with the Super Bowl this weekend.

"It may not be the obvious move, but there is really nothing for males on Friday and Saturday," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said. "So we may lose them on Sunday, but I think we'll have a pretty clear field for the movie on Friday and Saturday."

The other wide release is Paramount's ghost-filled "The Uninvited," which also totes a PG-13. Such a rating often is key to tapping into female support for horror pics.

Tracking indicates that "Taken" could take in something in the mid- to high-teen millions through Sunday. "Uninvited" might creep into low-double-digit millions, and "Town" should settle in the middle- to upper-single-digit millions range.   Continued...