Leveraging good will from the first movie, Taken 2 dominated at the box office this weekend with one of the best October debuts ever. Pitch Perfect performed admirably in its nationwide expansion, while Frankenweenie bombed against tough holdover competition from Hotel Transylvania. The Top 12 earned $132.7 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 55 percent from the same frame last year.
The success of Taken 2 really shouldn't come as a big surprise. While it's not for everyone, the first Taken maintains a very strong reputation over three years after its release (it has a great 7.9 rating on IMDb). For Taken 2, distributor 20th Century Fox rolled out a mighty marketing campaign that demonstrated that the sequel retained the action and character of the first movie, while making just enough changes (location, more identifiable villain) to not seem like a complete retread. This is about all it takes to release a successful sequel: make sure the first movie is well-liked, and promise more of the same.
Exit polling indicated that the audience skewed older (56 percent were 25 years of age and up) and was pretty evenly split between men and women (52 percent male), which suggests Taken 2 was a good date night choice. Reviews are god-awful (20 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but moviegoers were much more forgiving—they awarded Taken 2 a "B+" CinemaScore, which means the movie may not fall like a rock next weekend. Still, it's going to be a lot more front-loaded than its predecessor, and matching Taken's $145 million domestic total is going to be a real challenge.
In second place, Hotel Transylvania dipped 36 percent to $27.05 million. That brings the movie's 10-day total to a very good $76.7 million, which is over $15 million ahead of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs through the same point.
Pitch Perfect expanded to 2,770 locations and earned $14.85 million this weekend. That's lower than most comparable titles, including Bring It On ($17.4 million) and last October's Footloose ($15.6 million), though the movie surely burned off some of its initial demand with the limited release last week. The audience was overwhelmingly female (81 percent) and was also on the younger side (55 percent under the age of 25). Without any direct competition coming up for this younger female audience, Pitch Perfect should be able to leverage its strong word-of-mouth ("A" CinemaScore) in to a final gross north of $50 million.
Looper eased 42 percent to $12.1 million in its second outing. That drop is identical to Source Code's last year, though Looper's $40.2 million 10-day total is much higher than Source Code's $28.2 million. If Looper continues along this pace, it will wind up with over $75 million by the end of its run.
Frankenweenie took fifth place this weekend with a disappointing $11.4 million debut. That's way off from Tim Burton's last stop-motion animated movie Corpse Bride, which earned $19.1 million in its nationwide expansion. It's also lower than ParaNorman's $14.1 million, and only a tad up on April's stop-motion bomb The Pirates! Band of Misfits ($11.1 million).
A number of factors conspired to thwart Frankenweenie's box office prospects. Disney's decision to release the movie just a week after Hotel Transylvania is a baffling one: yes, Hotel Transylvania wasn't expected to perform quite so well, but it still seems foolish to expect to draw family audiences in this head-to-head matchup. The bigger problem, of course, was in the product itself: stop-motion animation already is a niche genre, and to throw black-and-white on top of that made the movie even more inaccessible. The marketing did have Tim Burton's name slapped all over it, but it's unclear how strong Burton's brand is without regular collaborator Johnny Depp.
Audiences gave Frankenweenie a "B+" CinemaScore. Without any real competition (besides, of course, Hotel Transylvania), the movie should hold well leading up to Halloween, but this start is so poor that it's not going to make much of a difference.