‘Taken’ Captures Super Bowl Weekend

by Brandon Gray
Liam Neeson in Taken

February 2, 2009

Driving an overall well-attended Super Bowl weekend, Taken seized $24.7 million on approximately 3,500 screens at 3,183 theaters, ranking as the second-biggest Super Bowl opening on record, behind last year's Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. The kidnapping thriller was also strong for its sub-genre, beating the average by over 50 percent and boasting comparable attendance to Man on Fire.

Taken bucked the typical Super Bowl fare. Assuming that males are preoccupied with the big game, studios usually venture forth on this weekend with female- or youth-skewing titles, such as horror movies or romantic comedies. The Uninvited and New in Town fit that mold yet faltered with below par debuts. Taken, though, wasn't merely an action movie for men but a thriller with broader appeal, and distributor 20th Century Fox's exit polling bore this out, indicating an audience composition of 52 percent male (and 60 percent over 25 years old). Truth is, nearly all movies take a hit on Super Bowl Sunday, with a few exceptions in the family/kids category.

A no-nonsense marketing campaign helped propel Taken to the top. The tried-and-true plotline of a man looking for his kidnapped daughter and meting out justice was strikingly presented, mostly through lead actor Liam Neeson matter-of-factly explaining what will happen and what he will do over the phone as his daughter is taken, interspersed with shots of his "very particular set of skills."

Muted by opening just three weeks after the like-titled supernatural horror The Unborn, The Uninvited haunted few people with $10.3 million on around 2,400 screens at 2,344 sites. The remake of the Korean horror movie A Tale of Two Sisters fared worse than recent Asian horror remakes Mirrors, One Missed Call and last year's Super Bowl entry The Eye, despite being marketed as from the "producers of The Ring and Disturbia." Uninvited's ads made the picture look like a nondescript supernatural affair and provided little incentive to see the movie in theaters, besides the fact that it was horror.

New in Town suffered a similar fate, arriving with $6.7 million at 1,941 locations. The fish-out-of-water romantic comedy featuring Renee Zellweger had a better welcome than A Good Year among analogous pictures but had far fewer attendees than the norm, from The Holiday to Doc Hollywood. The advertising presented bland pratfalls and not much else, demoting the picture from a theatrical must-see.

Two Best Picture nominees expanded into nationwide release for the first time with raspberry-worthy results. The Reader unspooled at 1,002 venues and garnered a measly $2.4 million, bringing its total to $12.7 million. Milk packed even less, grossing $1.5 million at 882 sites for a $23.4 million tally. After floundering last weekend, Frost/Nixon plunged 54 percent to $1.4 million, accumulating $14.3 million thus far. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button lost ground as well, falling 42 percent to $3.5 million for a $116.5 million tally in 39 days. Slumdog Millionaire was again the highlight among Oscar nominees, bagging $7.6 million. The India-set drama was down 29 percent after adding more theaters, and its total grew to $67.2 million.

Among Oscar-free holdovers, Paul Blart: Mall Cop had a sturdy third weekend, holding better than The Wrestler and Benjamin Button among others. The action comedy was off 36 percent to $13.9 million, lifting its total to $83.2 million in 17 days. Hotel for Dogs hung in there as well, down 33 percent to $8.6 million for $48.2 million in 17 days. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, on the other hand, saw the steepest drop of the Underworld franchise following its smallest opening. The action horror prequel plummeted 64 percent to $7.6 million for a $33.2 million tally in ten days.

Meanwhile, Gran Torino became the highest-grossing picture of actor and director Clint Eastwood's career; though it's nowhere near the top in terms of attendance (Every Which Way But Loose leads on this front). Off 49 percent to $8.2 million over the weekend, Gran Torino has generated $110.2 million thus far.

Last Weekend:
'Paul Blart' Clamps Down 'Rise of Lycans'
'Slumdog' a Multi-Millionaire Among Soft Oscar Nominees

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2007 - 'Messengers' Carry Super Bowl Weekend
• 2006 - 'When a Stranger' Dials Up Super Bowl Record
• 2005 - 'Boogeyman' Creeps Into First for Super Bowl Weekend

Related Chart
Weekend Box Office Results
All Time Super Bowl Openings
Oscar Nominee, Grosses and More

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