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'Taken 2' vs. 'Argo': Liam Neeson Battles Ben Affleck & 'Frankenweenie'

Ben Affleck Argo movieBen Affleck Argo movie weekend box office: Behind Taken 2 and Sinister?

Oct. 13, '12, p.m. update: Ben Affleck's Argo opened in third place on Friday, having grossed quite a bit less than (the lower end of) early estimates (see further below). Starring Bryan Cranston and Affleck, Argo took in $5.93 million at 3,232 sites, thus easily falling behind both Taken 2's $7 million 3,706 locations and Sinister's – surprising – $7.45 million at only 2,527 sites according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Now, bear in mind that Sinister's gross includes $1 million from late Thursday and midnight screenings. (Image: Ben Affleck Argo movie.)

So, which movie will lead the Oct. 12–14 weekend at the North American box office: Taken 2, Sinister, or Argo? On Friday, it seemed that Taken 2 would lead, with Argo right behind it. Now, it looks like Taken 2 will have an easy lead, collecting around $22 million by Sunday evening. Barring another Sinister upset, Argo will likely finish at no. 2, with approximately $18-19 million. If so, the critically acclaimed $44.5 million-budgeted Affleck thriller with political undertones (or overtones, take your pick) will be opening at the lower end of expectations.

Despite its stronger than expected Friday box office take, Sinister should finish the weekend in third place, a little behind Argo. Having said that, don't be too shocked if Sinister manages to sneak into second place, especially if Summit Entertainment adds the film's Thursday night grosses to its final weekend take.

Ben Affleck director opening-weekend box office: Argo movie vs. The Town

For comparison's sake: Ben Affleck's The Town opened with $23.8 million ($24.76 million adjusted for inflation as per Box Office Mojo) in September 2010. The crime thriller featuring Affleck and Jeremy Renner went on to gross $92.18 million ($92.99 million adjusted) in North America, plus a less impressive $61.83 million overseas.

Had early Friday estimates been correct, Argo would likely have finished its run with a box office cume as solid as that of The Town. If today's estimates are accurate, barring lots of awards-season buzz, expect a considerably lower cume – both in North America and elsewhere – for Ben Affleck's Argo movie.

Based on real-life events that took place during the Iran hostage crisis of the late '70s, in addition to Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck Argo features Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), and John Goodman. Affleck is also one of the film's producers, along with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Taken 2 stars Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace, while Sinister features Ethan Hawke.

Ben Affleck Argo movie picture: Warner Bros.

Oct. 13 early a.m.

Argo Movie Ben AffleckArgo movie vs. Taken 2: Weekend domestic box office

Argo or Taken 2 at the top of the North American box office this weekend? Some had been predicting that newcomer Argo, Ben Affleck's action drama based on real-life events set during the Iran hostage crisis of the late '70s, would land at the no. 1 spot. Although that remains a possibility, chances are the Liam Neeson actioner Taken 2 will lead for the second weekend in a row. (Image: Argo movie Ben Affleck.)

At 3,706 locations, Taken 2 collected $7.5-8.5 million on Friday, according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com. At 3,232 sites, the $44.5 million-budgeted Argo earned an estimated $7-8 million. Strong word of mouth could help Argo to surpass Taken 2 over the weekend proper – but as a rule, Saturday and Sunday belong to kiddie flicks and mass-appeal releases such as the brainless Taken 2. Either way, both movies are expected to end the weekend somewhere in the low $20 million range. That's about what some box office pundits had been expecting for Argo. (At Box Office Mojo, for instance, Ray Subers predicted $22.9m.)

Ben Affleck director box office: Argo movie vs. The Town

For comparison's sake: Ben Affleck's The Town opened with $23.8 million ($24.76 million adjusted for inflation) in September 2010. The crime thriller featuring Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Rebecca Hall went on to gross $92.18 million ($92.99 million adjusted as per Box Office Mojo) in North America, in addition to (a considerably more modest) $61.83 million overseas. Barring lots of box-office-boosting Oscar buzz and nominations for Argo, expect similar (or a little more modest) figures – both domestic and internationally – for the latest Ben Affleck thriller.

In addition to Affleck, the Argo cast includes Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. Affleck is also one of the film's producers, along with George Clooney and Grant Heslov.

Argo movie Ben Affleck picture: Warner Bros.

Oct. 9

Taken 2 movie Liam Neeson

'Taken 2' movie doesn't quite reach $50 million weekend, but overperforms all the same

Taken 2 scored slightly less than the “officially” estimated $50 million at 3,661 North American venues this past weekend. According to box office actuals found at Boxofficemojo.com, the Liam Neeson action vehicle grossed $49.51 million on its first three days out in the U.S. and Canada. Though less than 20th Century Fox estimated, that's still about $10 million more than many prognosticators had expected. (Image: Liam Neeson Taken 2.)

In fact, Taken 2 is far ahead of Taken: the original brought in $24.71 million ($26.51 million adjusted) when it opened in late January 2009. In other words, Taken 2, even if inflation is taken into account, scored about twice as much as the first movie.

Taken 2 box office: Best opening since The Dark Knight Rises

As mentioned in my previous Taken 2 box office post (see further below), the film had the best opening at the domestic box office since Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises in mid-July. It's also worth noting that Taken 2 will surely join the original Taken, The Fifth Dimension, and the (gasp!) French-language The Intouchables, as one of the highest-grossing French-made movies at the international box office.

Taken 2, which added another $5.5 million on Monday in North America, cost a reported $45 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses. After four days, the Liam Neeson movie has grossed $55.01 million. Internationally, Taken 2 has collected an estimated $67 million.

Besides Liam Neeson, the Taken 2 cast includes Breaking Dawn - Part 2's Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. Colombiana and Transporter 3's Olivier Megaton directed from a screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

Liam Neeson Taken 2 movie photo: 20th Century Fox.

Oct. 7

Liam Neeson Taken 2Liam Neeson Taken 2: Box office in North America and Neeson's career get a shot in the arm

Taken 2, the sequel to Liam Neeson's sleeper 2008/2009 hit Taken, raked in a better-than-expected $50 million at 3,661 North American locations this weekend, Oct. 5-7, according to studio estimates. If that figure is indeed accurate, the Taken 2 box office take was about $4 million above what early Friday estimates indicated; it's also the best opening at the U.S. and Canada box office since The Dark Knight Rises in mid-July. And it's another (sad, pathetic) indication that, The Intouchables notwithstanding, French movies need to be made in English, with Hollywood stars and big guns, in order to become international hits. (Image: Liam Neeson Taken 2.)

Liam Neeson action star

Liam Neeson has been making movies since the late '70s. Who would have guessed that about three decades after Excalibur and Krull Neeson, in his late 50s, would become an action star. True, he has proven himself a top box office draw only in the Taken movies. Neeson's other action flicks – e.g., The Grey ($77.27 million worldwide), Unknown ($130.78 million worldwide) – have been moderate performers. Even so, they're definitely highly profitable (especially once ancillary revenues are tallied) because of their relatively modest (below $50m) budgets.

Taken 2, for instance, cost a reported $45 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses. In North America alone the film grossed more than that figure on its first weekend out. Internationally, Taken 2 collected $67 million. That's almost as much as the original Taken brought in during the course of its entire run overseas: $81.82 million. (The North American cume was an impressive $145 million.) In sum: Expect Taken 3, with or without Liam Neeson (who says he won't be back), in the not-too-distant future.

Taken movies are audiences' – not critics' – favorites

If you offer audiences good movies, they'll come to their local multiplex. Well, that's how the saying goes. Reality seems to be something else altogether. Taken 2 has a downright rotten 28 percent approval rating and a 4.7/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. For comparison's sake: Taken has a 42 percent approval rating and 5.2/10 average.

Besides Liam Neeson, the Taken 2 cast includes Breaking Dawn - Part 2's busybody vampire Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, and D.B. Sweeney. Olivier Megaton, whose Colombiana and Transporter 3 were box office duds in North America, directed the Taken sequel. Screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

Note: In case you're wondering, Battleship and Wrath of the Titans weren't exactly “Liam Neeson movies,” as the focus of those box office disappointments (in relation to their cost) was on, respectively, Taylor Kitsch and Sam Worthington.

Liam Neeson Taken 2 photo: 20th Century Fox.

Oct. 6

Taken 2 Liam NeesonTaken 2 box office: Liam Neeson is back

Taken 2, the sequel to Liam Neeson's sleeper box office hit Taken, scored $17.5 million at 3,661 locations on Friday, according to early, rough box office estimates found at Deadline.com. Taken 2 may end up with an impressive $46 million over the weekend. In addition to Liam Neeson, the Taken 2 cast includes Maggie Grace (soon to be seen in Breaking Dawn - Part 2) and Famke Janssen. (Image: Taken 2 Liam Neeson.)

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, however, is off to a disappointingly modest start. The animated feature is expected to land at no. 4 on the domestic box office chart, grossing around $13-$13.5 million by Sunday evening after collecting an estimated $3.5 million at 3,005 theaters on Friday.

Frankenweenie, featuring voices by the likes of Catherine O'Hara, Christopher Lee, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and Martin Short, would likely have performed much better had it been released in late August or early September, when there was next to no competition. Now, the Disney-released animated feature had to compete with Sony Pictures Animation's quite successful Hotel Transylvania, which is expected to collect around $25 million over the weekend after taking in $6.2 million on Friday.

Sandwiched between Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie on Friday was Pitch Perfect. Directed by Jason Moore, and starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, and Brittany Snow, the girls vs. boys college comedy / musical grossed an estimated $4.3 million at 2,770 venues, and may reach $12.5 million over the weekend.

Rounding out the top five is the Joseph Gordon-Levitt / Bruce Willis action sci-fier Looper, with $3.4 million on Friday and about $11 million by Sunday evening. If these figures are accurate, that means Looper – a sleeper opening-weekend hit – suffered a steeper-than-expected drop on its second weekend out.

Taken 2 Liam Neeson photo: 20th Century Fox.

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2 Comments to 'Taken 2' vs. 'Argo': Liam Neeson Battles Ben Affleck & 'Frankenweenie'

  1. Marcy

    So— the answer is obvious. Find roles for Liam that he stars in and is not a supporting role. The Grey was good but it could not appeal to a wide audience because of the R-rating with language and violence. Keep the movies PG-13 and women of all ages and men will be drawn to the theaters. Add some sensitivity into the role along with the tough guy and you will have blockbusters. Liam doesn't need a lot of FX. Audiences love him in good story. He can hold his own if given the chance.

  2. irene

    it only proves, once more, that critics opinions have little to do with public opinion