Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills as a movie star, and one of them is selling tickets at the box office.
The actor’s revenge sequel Taken 2 is expected to easily top the chart over the next three days – and the thriller is hardly the only player this weekend. Tim Burton’s animated effort Frankenweenie will take on the monster hit Hotel Transylvania, which opened in first place last weekend, and the a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect will expand to a whopping 2,770 theaters.
All in all, it’s a diverse weekend that gives moviegoers viable options across an array of genres, and it should yield solid grosses. Here’s how the whole frame might play out:
1. Taken 2 – $44 million
Fox could never have known the instant cult status that the original Taken would garner when it was released in 2009. The revenge thriller revived Liam Neeson’s career, galvanizing him as a sort of grizzly, wizened Chuck Norris. The $20 million film opened to a strong $24.7 million, but thanks to amazing word of mouth and sheer curiosity at the relentless over-the-top badassery, the film chugged all the way to $145 million.
Taken 2 will start off much faster, though with reviews as bad as the ones it has been earning, it may not have the same legs as its predecessor. Still, between Neeson’s gigantic appeal (he helped The Grey earn $51.6 million earlier this year, and that film was sold on nothing but his drawing power) and Taken’s fondly regarded reputation,Taken 2 is set to muscle its way to number one. A rep at Fox says the studio shelled out $42 million for the sequel and will release it in 3,661 theaters. Fox should earn all of that money back this weekend, as Taken 2 seems headed for a $44 million bow.
2. Hotel Transylvania – $24 million
Last weekend’s chart-topper may drop by about 40 to 45 percent (somewhat high for a family film) due to the direct competition from Frankenweenie. Still, a $24 million weekend would give Hotel a robust $74 million total after ten days.
3. Frankenweenie – $17 million
As evidenced by the Dracula-centered Hotel Transylvania, theaters are playing host to an inordinate number of creepy kiddie flicks of late. ParaNorman entered theaters in August, followed by Hotel last week, and now Frankenweenie, about a young boy’s attempt to resurrect his dearly departed pooch, is entering the fray.
Disney’s $39 million Tim Burton-directed film doesn’t have the same kind of broad appeal as Hotel Transylvania, and its stop-motion animation style turns off many moviegoers (see: The Pirates! Band of Misfits). Yet Frankenweenie’s proximity to Halloween lifts its prospects, as does Burton’s name appeal. With strong reviews but a creepier style, it seems likely that Frankenweenie will play to more adults than a typical family film, much in the same way that Coraline (which opened to $16.8 million) did in 2009. Disney is releasing the film into a big 3,005 theaters, but it may have to settle for a $17 million weekend.
4. Pitch Perfect – $16.5 million
Universal’s $17 million a cappella comedy broke out last weekend, earning $5.1 million from just 335 theaters. Now, it’s strutting its way into 2,770 locations. Thanks to a full week of buzz – including a straight “A” CinemaScore grade – Pitch Perfect should have another terrific frame, especially with its core demographic of females under 25, who may not be all that interested in seeing Taken 2. Give Pitch Perfect about $16.5 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period.
5. Looper – $13 million
Liam Neeson will take away some of the audience for Looper, but strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth will keep the thriller a contender. A decline just under 40 percent would give the Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle about $13 million for the weekend and $41 million total.
Check back all weekend for full box office coverage, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.