By Daniel Garris
Fox's Taken 3 led the box office with ease this weekend with a $39.20 million debut. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise outpaced pre-release expectations; marking the third time that the Taken franchise has exceeded expectations. Taken 3 hadn't been expected to open anywhere near as strong as 2012's Taken 2, but instead opened a reasonable 21 percent below the $49.51 million debut of Taken 2. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Taken 3 delivered the third largest opening weekend ever for the month of January (behind only last year's Ride Along and 2008's Cloverfield). The film's debut was especially impressive given that so many holdovers came back down to earth this weekend; due in part to the end of the holiday season and due in part to the strong performance of Taken 3.
Taken 3 opened with $14.88 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.6 million from late night shows on Thursday), increased 5 percent on Saturday to take in $15.62 million and declined 44 percent on Sunday to gross $8.71 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.63 to 1. Taken 3 received a solid B+ rating on CinemaScore. It is possible that Taken 3 could take a significant hit next weekend from the nationwide expansion of Warner's highly anticipated American Sniper.
Paramount's Selma placed in a distant second with $11.31 million. While Taken 3 outpaced expectations this weekend, Selma debuted below expectations, which were ultimately inflated due in part to the film's exceptional critical reviews and a larger than originally anticipated location count this weekend. While the Ava DuVernay directed awards season hopeful didn't light the box office on fire this weekend, the film could still hold up extremely well going forward thanks in part to strong word of mouth (the film received an exceptional A+ rating on CinemaScore) and continued awards season buzz. It is also very possible that many initial moviegoers are waiting until the Martin Luther King holiday weekend next weekend to see the film. With that said, that Selma debuted 54 percent below the $24.64 million start of 2013's Lee Daniels' The Butler is certainly underwhelming. Selma has grossed $13.59 million to date.
Selma grossed $3.77 million on Friday, increased a healthy 25 percent on Saturday to gross $4.70 million and fell 40 percent on Sunday to gross $2.84 million. That gave the film a promising weekend to Friday ratio of 3.00 to 1. It should be noted that the reported production budget for Selma was a modest $20 million.
Holdovers occupied positions three through six this weekend with the four films fairly bunched together with one another. Disney's Into the Woods claimed third with $9.55 million. The Rob Marshall directed musical featuring Meryl Streep was down a significant 49 percent. This weekend's hold was lackluster given that the film expanded into an additional 295 locations. Into the Woods surpassed the $100 million mark this weekend and has grossed $105.08 million in 18 days. That places the film 6 percent behind the $111.93 million 18-day take of 2012's Les Misérables.
Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies followed closely behind in fourth place with $9.38 million. The third installment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy was down a sharp 57 percent from last weekend. The Battle of the Five Armies has grossed $236.46 million through 26 days of release and is now running just 2 percent ahead of the $231.93 million 26-day gross of 2012's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Unbroken rounded out the weekend's top five with $8.17 million. The Angelina Jolie directed war drama from Universal fell 55 percent from last weekend. Like Into the Woods, Unbroken also surpassed the $100 million domestic milestone this weekend. Unbroken continues to exceed expectations with $101.40 million in 18 days. The film is running 8 percent ahead of the $94.09 million 18-day gross of 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The Imitation Game placed in sixth with $7.21 million. The awards season hopeful from The Weinstein Company held up much better than other films in the marketplace this weekend, as it was down just 7 percent. However, the film did expand into an additional 812 locations this weekend, so its location average did see significant slowing over the frame. The Imitation Game surpassed the $40 million mark this weekend and has grossed a healthy $40.43 million to date.
Warner's Inherent Vice took in $2.77 million to place in eleventh among all films. The Paul Thomas Anderson directed film generated a respectable per-location average of $4,300 from 645 locations. The film performed towards the higher end of expectations, which were subdued from the film's modest performance in platform release. Inherent Vice performed 37 percent softer than the $4.39 million take of 2012's The Master during its first weekend of major release (in 788 locations). Inherent Vice has grossed $4.35 million to date.
Fellow Warner Bros. release American Sniper continued to impress in platform release with $579,518 from just 4 locations. That gave the Clint Eastwood directed awards season hopeful starring Bradley Cooper a massive per-location average of $144,880. American Sniper has grossed $3.17 million to date. As mentioned, the film will expand into nationwide release this coming Friday.