Box Office Recap: Taken Takes the Cake

Once again, a January opener has far exceeded industry expectations at the North American box office. After two weeks on top, Paul Blart: Mall Cop was finally knocked down to second as the new Liam Neeson thriller Taken easily nabbed the crown. Overall, the top ten films grossed an estimated $96 million for the weekend of January 30. The total is about 19 percent less than last weekend’s take of $118.6 million. Yet on a brighter note, it also represents a gain of 1.3 percent compared to the same weekend last year as well as a gain of 45.3 percent compared to the same weekend in 2007. Seeing as this is Superbowl weekend, the result comes as very, very promising news for Hollywood.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Taken easily unseated Paul Blart for the weekend with a shocking estimated finish of $24.6 million. Having debuted in some foreign markets nearly a year ago, it is clear that Fox lacked confidence in its domestic debut. Despite a modest target of $14 million, the flick nevertheless caught the eye of many, leaving execs at Fox amazed. Yet with direct competition from Push coming next week, look for the film to suffer a 50 percent drop next weekend resulting in a final tally of $65 million. Even so, Taken represents another step in the right direction (along with Marley & Me) for Fox following their lackluster performance in 2008.

Sony’s former champ Paul Blart fell only 35.3 percent and nabbed second with an estimated $14 million for a fantastic 17-day cumulative of $83.4 million. Though pummeled by critics, the flick once again demonstrates that family audiences are rarely swayed by bad reviews. Look for the film to conclude its domestic run with an excellent $125 million.

Paramount had less to celebrate as its teen horror film The Uninvited opened softer than expected with an estimated $10.5 million. Regardless of a better release date than early January’s similar The Unborn, the former only mustered 53 percent of the latter’s opening weekend debut. Much of this can be attributed to Taken, which appears to have stolen away much of Unborn‘s audience. Look for the film to disappear from theaters quickly for a disappointing final domestic tally of only $25 million.

Fourth went to another Paramount release: Hotel for Dogs. Unlike The Unborn, though, Dogs has vastly exceeded expectations. The flick held well once again, taking in another estimated $8.6 million, down just 32.9 percent, for a 17-day total of $48.2 million. Look for the unlikely winner to finish its domestic run with about $75 million.

Fifth went to Clint Eastwood’s record-setting Gran Torino. With another $8.2 million earned this past weekend, Eastwood’s latest has officially become his highest earning film to date, having gobbled up about $110.2 million. Look for the film to end its domestic run with about $140 million.

Rounding out the top ten were the Oscar-hopeful Slumdog Millionaire with a sixth place finish of $7.6 million (suffering the smallest drop in the top ten); Underworld: Rise of the Lycans with seventh coming in at just under $7.6 million (suffering the largest drop in the top ten); New in Town, which could only muster eighth place and $6.7 million in its opening weekend; My Bloody Valentine 3-D with ninth place and $4.5 million; and Warner Bros.’ disaster Inkheart which collapsed to tenth with just $3.7 million in just its second weekend.

Compared to last week’s forecast, Taken debuted almost exactly at my gutsy estimated $24 million while both The Uninvited and New in Town debuted below my predicted $19 million for the former and $9 million for the latter.

Next weekend looks to be even more crowded, with four major tentpole releases going wide. Focus Features’ Coraline, from the makers of The Nightmare Before Christmas, opens in a modest 2,100 theaters while the supernatural thriller Push makes its debut in just 2,200 theaters. Meanwhile, both the romantic comedy He’s Just Not that Into You and the family comedy The Pink Panther 2 look to dominate the multiplexes in over 3,000 theaters each. Look for Panther to take top spot with $22 million, while both Push and Into You should earn about $14 million each. Coraline should settle for last, of the four new releases, with a respectable $9 million.