Jesus vs. Liam Neeson: A Box Office Showdown
By John Hamann
March 2, 2014
This weekend at the box office answers the age-old question: If Liam Neeson and Jesus were to face off in a box office battle, who would win? The answer: Neither (but they both do very well).
Yes, the faith-based moviegoer faced off against fans of the old-school action thriller, all over a moviegoing weekend punctuated by the Oscar ceremony on Sunday. I always find it kind of sad that only a couple of Oscar players are in the top 12 this weekend, including the multi-nominated American Hustle and the ageless unicorn of the box office, Frozen, which is nominated for animated film and song. We are left with a top 12 that is filled with a lot of less-than-great titles, and a top three that towers over the rest.
Universal’s Non-Stop is number one, putting Liam Neeson back on top (again) in another of his one word title action releases that he has become known for, through movies like Taken, Taken 2, The Unknown, and The Grey. The box office for Non-Stop falls into familiar territory for Neeson, as it opened to $10.1 million on Friday night ($0.72 million came from Thursday screenings), and that was translated into a weekend gross of $30 million, which is ahead of The Grey ($19.7 million opening), Unknown ($21.9 million opening), and Taken ($24.7 million opening). The weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) for Non-Stop came in at 2.97, which is on target for a film like this, despite the Oscar ceremony on Sunday night. The debut is right in Neeson’s wheelhouse, and the film should go on to earn at least $60 million and follow that up with an even stronger gross overseas.
While this likely won’t be a leggy hit that Taken was, Neeson often surprises. Currently, Non-Stop has a rating of 58% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, with 90 reviewers finding something to like out of a possible 155; top critics liked it slightly more at 61%. In 2008, Taken’s "tomato-meter" was exactly the same, at 58% fresh, and the film went on to earn almost six times that of its opening weekend ($24.7 million opening, $145 million domestic finish). Taken also amassed an $81 million overseas take, so it earned $227 million worldwide against a $25 million production budget. Non-Stop earned a very solid A- Cinemascore, but I have a steady belief that Cinemascores are useless in movies where the star has a fanbase, like Neeson in Non-Stop.
For Universal, this is another early-year success for the studio, this time in association with Silver Pictures, home of the ageless king of hit-and-miss, Joel Silver. After Universal released Ride Along ($125 million domestic) and Lone Survivor ($122 million domestic) at number one already this year, Non-Stop gives them their third hot title only nine weekends into the movie-going calendar year. Universal now takes March and April off, before releasing Neighbors with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron in May, as well as A Million Ways to Die in the West from Seth McFarlane. After that they have the Dumb and Dumber sequel, and then Unbroken at Christmas, which is a script from the Coen brothers, directed by Angelina Jolie. It appears to be a good time to be Universal.