By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
October 7, 2012
Early October is generally the calm before the glut of the horror movie Halloween storm. Hollywood rarely eschews the conventional release patterns for this month. Given this weekend’s results, that strategy may change. Box office heavyweights Tim Burton and Liam Neeson both anchor projects and an a cappella hit from last weekend also expands. Expectations were high across the board with three new titles attempting to unseat the reigning champion, Hotel Transylvania. In the end, Taken 2 destroyed all comers.
January of 2009 represents one of the strangest box office months of all time. A month generally lacking in ticket sales suddenly became a period of spectacular box office results. Films such as Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Gran Torino surpassed the $100 million mark, rarefied air for January wide releases. The last new release of the month, Taken, did not become the strongest earner, eventually falling $1.3 million short of Paul Blart. What Taken managed was much more impressive.
In generating $145 million worth of revenue, the French production accomplished what even George Lucas could not. Seemingly overnight, Taken turned then 56-year-old actor Liam Neeson into an action movie superstar. In the wake of the $145 million blockbuster, Neeson has anchored blockbusters such as Clash of the Titans and intended blockbusters such as The A-Team, Wrath of the Titans and Battleship. He has carried otherwise unassuming projects Unknown and The Grey to $50+ million performances. And during all of this, global audiences have waited for the inevitable sequel to Taken.
We have chronicled 2012 as the Year of the Needless Sequel. Whether Taken 2 qualifies under this umbrella is up for debate. Yes, Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, had retrieved his daughter from a white slavery ring. Taken 2 could either be a healing film about the therapeutic process experienced by Kim Mills as she attempts to overcome the psychological trauma of being kidnapped and her best friend killed. Alternately, Taken 2 could be a revenge flick.
Whether another movie was needed, the premise here is sound. The flaw with almost all Hollywood action flicks is that a slew of unidentified bad guys are gunned down as if no one will notice their absence. Even the most anonymous of thugs have families. In the case of Taken, the premise is that a criminal underworld icon portrayed by Rade Šerbedžija cares deeply about the loss of his son and seeks revenge. Contrast that idea to Die Hard 2: Die Harder or any of the other Die Hard sequels where the viewer is asked to believe that John McClane experiences the terrorism equivalent of winning four (soon to be five) consecutive lotteries.
Audiences agreed that this sequel has stronger justification than most. Taken 2 earned an exemplary $50 million this weekend, more than double the original. In the process, the film became the third best October opener of all time. The current record holder is Paranormal Activity 3 at $52.6 million followed by Jackass 3D at $50.4 million. Recent box office actuals have revealed that Hollywood is in the habit of overestimating everything. If Taken 2 is the exception, it could feasibly surpass Jackass 3D to become the second best opener of all time.