By Reagen Sulewski
October 14, 2012
There were six new wide releases out this weekend, so of course what happened? The old guy wins again.
In their divine wisdom, Hollywood studios decided to flood multiplexes this weekend, with the new films all covering a different genre – historical thriller, horror, family comedy, black comedy, coming-of-age and polemic – and this was in large part responsible for keeping the year-over-year increase going. It's the “quantity, not quality” stratagem, although with last year's corresponding weekend holding up Real Steel, Footloose and the remake of The Thing as its flagbearers, we shouldn't be too hasty on the quality thing, either.
However, for the second straight weekend, nothing could beat Taken 2, the second outing in the “Liam Neeson kills all the bad guys in Europe” franchise. In its second release weekend, it earned an additional $22.5 million to push its running total to $86.8 million. This is well ahead of the pace of the first Taken film, which had only earned $53.6 million at this point, but was also in the initial stages of showing how leggy it was going to be with a less than 20% drop. No such thing here, as Taken 2's fall is 55%, more typical for an action sequel with dodgy word-of-mouth.
That drop-off is independent from how it performed during the weekend itself, coming in second on Friday, but then icing the competition on Saturday and (estimated) Sunday, and with the highest overall figure of the weekend with $9.6 million on Saturday. It's a bit early to project final figures, but the $145 million of the first film is likely a target for Fox, and realistic. Regardless, Liam Neeson has made some not-so-subtle intimations that he's not interested in a Taken 3, recognizing the increasing ludicrousness of the plot, so Luc Besson will have to look elsewhere for his next out-of-nowhere project.
Working down the box office chart, the first new film of the weekend is Argo, which opened with $20.1 million. This movie tells the story of the work-behind-the-scenes to rescue American embassy staff in the Iranian crisis in 1979, with an idea so bizarre you couldn't make it up – except, well, how they did. It stars and is directed by Ben Affleck, who is essentially three for three in his directorial career after Gone Baby Gone and The Town, at least in terms of critical reception. Argo's opening weekend is actually a slight downtick from the $23.8 million of The Town, but a huge improvement over the $5.5 million of Gone Baby Gone.
With a reported $45 million budget, Argo is set to be a significant winner in the final analysis, with foreign box office yet to come in, although I expect this won't be as big a draw overseas for the fact of it being a very Ameri-centric story. And although this seems like an easy call after the fact, the outlandishness of the real story behind the rescue could have turned larger audiences off. An extremely well-cut trailer that ramped up the tension and captured the spirit of the crisis certainly helped, not to mention a significant amount of real-world relevance to the situation with events in Libya and Iran offering parallels.