Taken 3 and Selma Strong; Holdovers Not
By John Hamann
January 11, 2015
We can always count on Liam Neeson and the Taken franchise to put a little punch into the box office, but the holdovers are dragging us down this weekend.
While we have that punch from Taken 3, which from critical accounts is not a very good film (currently 11% fresh at RottenTomatoes), it is also Golden Globe weekend, which means that some viewers try to catch up on good movies they may not have had access to over the holidays. Selma, which is nominated for four Golden Globes, went wide this frame, and The Imitation Game, with five nominations, moved from 812 theaters to 1,566. Into the Woods added 300 screens after receiving three nominations, while Inherent Vice went wider this although it only has one nomination. So, despite it appearing that there was only one new release, many films are in play, which makes for an interesting Golden Globe weekend at the box office.
Our number one film of the weekend, and the first film other than The Hobbit to be at number one since December 12th, is Taken 3, featuring reluctant action star Liam Neeson. As this is the third Taken film over a six year period, the series is prepping to lag somewhat, as the original opened to $24.7 million and the sequel in 2012 earned $49.5 million. Keeping momentum up on what is simply a set of routine revenge thrillers with little character development is extremely difficult, so one would think the series peaked with the middle story. However, if Taken 3 was able to match the opening of the middle-entry, it would finish the weekend with the biggest January debut of all time, as the leader for the first month of the year is last year’s Ride Along, which debuted to $41.5 million. Tracking was looking for an opening in the $30 million area but has not been sharp in recent weeks.
That $30 million tracking number got blown up immediately, as the Thursday preview number was stronger than expected. Taken 3 earned $1.6 million from Thursday night screenings, and unless it was seriously front-loaded like a teen horror film, that kind of number indicates a debut beyond $30 million. The Friday number came in at $14.7 million (including $1.6 million from previews), which is third biggest single day in January box office history. While stronger than expected, it did not approach the $18.4 million opening day that Taken 2 earned. Its opening day was strong and so was its weekend – Taken 3 finished with $40.4 million, which is the second biggest January weekend ever, behind only Ride Along’s $41.5 million. Heading into the weekend, few thought that Taken 3 would beat Lone Survivor, which debuted over the same weekend last year to $37.8 million.
Taken 3 becomes Neeson’s biggest live action opening since Taken 2 and the sixth biggest live action debut of his career - and some of the higher first weekends are very big films. Neeson will likely never see a bigger start than The Dark Knight Rises, which opened to $160.9 million. His second biggest iconic debut weekend is Star Wars Episode 1 at $64.8 million, while third is the Clash of the Titans remake which started with $61.2 million. Then we have Taken 2 at $49.5 million, which is followed by Batman Begins at $48.7 million.