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Box office update: 'Sinister' takes down 'Taken 2'; Argo comes in third

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Halloween might still be a few weeks away, but it looks like audiences are already in the mood for horror.

Summit’s spooky flick, Sinister, topped the box office on Friday with an estimated $7.5 million, effectively knocking down last weekend’s top performer, Taken 2. The R-rated film, which stars Ethan Hawke, is expected to garner about $19 million this weekend.

Don’t count out Taken 2 just yet though. The Liam Neeson abduction sequel, which came in a close second on Friday with an estimated $7 million, will likely take back the top spot at the box office by the end of the weekend. The film is on track to earn close to $24 million.

Meanwhile, Affleck’s critically-acclaimed political thriller Argo debuted in third place with $5.9 million. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: Ben Affleck's 'Argo' will be taken by 'Taken 2'

It’s going to be a close race at this weekend’s box office. Audiences will certainly be going to see Argo, but Liam Neeson looks primed for another week of victory with Taken 2. At this rate, we’re going to see his long-lost son get kidnapped as well. Without further ado, I bring you this week’s box office predictions.

1. Taken 2 — $24 million

Liam Neeson will continue his box office reign for the second straight week. Poor reviews (it stands at 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) could be buoyed by positive word-of-mouth (it has a solid “B+” Cinemascore grade), leading to a likely drop of around 50 percent.  However, I don’t expect it to attain the momentum of the original Taken, which attracted a bevy of moviegoers that drove the film to a gross of $145 million. If Taken 2 is indeed crowned box office champ this week, it has its PG-13 rating to thank — most of the other major releases are weighed down by an R.

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Box office report: 'Taken 2' scores explosive $50 million debut; 'Frankenweenie' (un)dead on arrival

Liam Neeson has had an indisputably amazing year.

Though the quality of the actor’s movies remains up for debate (We’re looking at you, Battleship. Well, you too, Wrath of the Titans. Oh gosh, The Grey as well. And, as much as I hate to say it, perhaps even The Dark Knight Rises… don’t stone me!), the fact that 60-year-old Neeson is at the peak of his career, recognized as an almost mythic Chuck Norris-esque figure and opening a new action tentpole every couple of months, is nothing short of remarkable.

And now Neeson has another chart-topper to add to his already impressive resume: Taken 2, which debuted to an astounding $50 million from 3,661 theaters this weekend, good for a sizzling $13,657 per theater average. Taken 2‘s debut is the third-best ever in the month of October, behind 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3, which started with $52.6 million, and 2010’s Jackass 3D, which started with $50.4 million.

The revenge sequel also earned more than twice as much as the original Taken did in its opening weekend — that film surprised Hollywood when it bowed with $24.7 million in 2009, and it also served as the catalyst for Neeson’s career jumpstart. Thanks to great word-of-mouth, Taken chugged all the way to $145 million total.

Time will tell whether Taken 2 can match its predecessor’s gross, but that may prove challenging.

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Box office update: 'Taken 2' takes in $18.6 million on Friday; 'Frankenweenie' lacks bite

At age 60, Liam Neeson has become the most impressive action star in Hollywood. The grizzled actor’s revenge sequel Taken 2 topped the box office in a major way on Friday, earning an estimated $18.6 million; that puts the film on pace for a weekend in the $45-50 million range — far above the original Taken‘s $24.7 million bow. Fox execs should be celebrating that audiences flocked to Taken 2 despite its terrible reviews. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: Audiences will be taken with 'Taken 2'

Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills as a movie star, and one of them is selling tickets at the box office.

The actor’s revenge sequel Taken 2 is expected to easily top the chart over the next three days — and the thriller is hardly the only player this weekend. Tim Burton’s animated effort Frankenweenie will take on the monster hit Hotel Transylvania, which opened in first place last weekend, and the a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect will expand to a whopping 2,770 theaters.

All in all, it’s a diverse weekend that gives moviegoers viable options across an array of genres, and it should yield solid grosses. Here’s how the whole frame might play out:

1. Taken 2 – $44 million

Fox could never have known the instant cult status that the original Taken would garner when it was released in 2009. The revenge thriller revived Liam Neeson’s career, galvanizing him as a sort of grizzly, wizened Chuck Norris. The $20 million film opened to a strong $24.7 million, but thanks to amazing word of mouth and sheer curiosity at the relentless over-the-top badassery, the film chugged all the way to $145 million.

Taken 2 will start off much faster, though with reviews as bad as the ones it has been earning, it may not have the same legs as its predecessor. Still, between Neeson’s gigantic appeal (he helped The Grey earn $51.6 million earlier this year, and that film was sold on nothing but his drawing power) and Taken‘s fondly regarded reputation,Taken 2 is set to muscle its way to number one. A rep at Fox says the studio shelled out $42 million for the sequel and will release it in 3,661 theaters. Fox should earn all of that money back this weekend, as Taken 2 seems headed for a $44 million bow.

2. Hotel Transylvania – $24 million

Last weekend’s chart-topper may drop by about 40 to 45 percent (somewhat high for a family film) due to the direct competition from Frankenweenie. Still, a $24 million weekend would give Hotel a robust $74 million total after ten days.

3. Frankenweenie – $17 million

As evidenced by the Dracula-centered Hotel Transylvania, theaters are playing host to an inordinate number of creepy kiddie flicks of late. ParaNorman entered theaters in August, followed by Hotel last week, and now Frankenweenie, about a young boy’s attempt to resurrect his dearly departed pooch, is entering the fray.

Disney’s $39 million Tim Burton-directed film doesn’t have the same kind of broad appeal as Hotel Transylvania, and its stop-motion animation style turns off many moviegoers (see: The Pirates! Band of Misfits). Yet Frankenweenie‘s proximity to Halloween lifts its prospects, as does Burton’s name appeal. With strong reviews but a creepier style, it seems likely that Frankenweenie will play to more adults than a typical family film, much in the same way that Coraline (which opened to $16.8 million) did in 2009. Disney is releasing the film into a big 3,005 theaters, but it may have to settle for a $17 million weekend.

4. Pitch Perfect – $16.5 million

Universal’s $17 million a cappella comedy broke out last weekend, earning $5.1 million from just 335 theaters. Now, it’s strutting its way into 2,770 locations. Thanks to a full week of buzz — including a straight “A” CinemaScore grade — Pitch Perfect should have another terrific frame, especially with its core demographic of females under 25, who may not be all that interested in seeing Taken 2. Give Pitch Perfect about $16.5 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period.

5. Looper – $13 million

Liam Neeson will take away some of the audience for Looper, but strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth will keep the thriller a contender. A decline just under 40 percent would give the Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle about $13 million for the weekend and $41 million total.

Check back all weekend for full box office coverage, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.

Read more:
Box office preview: ‘Looper’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania’ check in to theaters
EW Movie Reviews

Watch this new 'Taken 2' trailer, or Liam Neeson will come for you! - VIDEO

You don’t want to mess with Liam Neeson.

The tall, hulking Irish actor introduces a new Internet-only trailer for Taken 2, the sequel to his 2008 thriller Taken.

“Check out this exclusive look at Taken 2, exclusively on YouTube,” intones Neeson, starring out and pointing at the viewer, “Or I will come for you, and I will find you.”

The trailer follows Neeson’s Bryan Mills having a happy reunion with his daughter Kim, played by Maggie Grace, and ex-wife Lenore, played by Famke Janssen, in Istanbul. Soon after, husband and wife are, yes, taken, with a black bag cinched around Neeson’s head and neck. There’s a flurry of action after, including Grace driving a car with Neeson, speeding over train tracks and almost getting decimated into nothingness by an oncoming train.

“I have a particular set of skills, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you,” says Neeson, his deep voice booming in an overhead narration, at one point. Indeed, indeed he does.

Check out the trailer, below:
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'Taken 2' trailer: 'Take one of the guns. And two of the grenades.'

The just-released official trailer for Taken 2 is pretty similar to the international trailer that leaked (and was quickly taken down) last month. But the new trailer for the Liam Neeson rampage-sequel adds in several bits of new video, which go a long way towards adding shade and dimensionality to the complicated plot. Just kidding! Actually there’s a just a lot of new shots of cars flipping over, guns being fired, and Liam Neeson having extremely serious phone conversations. At one point, he tells daughter Maggie Grace: “Take one of the guns. And two of the grenades.” Words to live by. Watch the trailer:

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