UPDATED FINAL, 2:03PM: Full Monday actuals per Rentrak are in, and the year’s box office, through 11 days, is at $379.4M, 1.1% behind last year (that’s $4.27M behind). What’s up? While it’s too early to sound the alarm; it turns out that this weekend’s haul of $126.57M — despite Taken 3‘ s great opening — was off 10% from the same frame a year ago, which minted $140.8M. For the most part, we can attribute it to the fact that we’re dogging Frozen‘s carryover from a year ago. While Lone Survivor‘s wide break made $37.8M during the second frame of January 2014, Frozen in its eighth weekend made $14.7M ($3.4M more than No. 2 Selma did over its FSS).

  1. Taken 3 (Fox), $39.2M, 3,594 locations, $10,908 average; total cume: $39.2M, Wk. 1
  2. Selma (Par), $11.3M, 2,179 locations, $5,189 average; total cume: $13.6M, Wk. 3
  3. Into The Woods (Dis), $9.6M, 2,833 locations, $3,373 average; total cume: $105.1M , Wk. 3
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (WB), $9.4M, 3,402 locations, $2,756 average; total cume: $236.5M, Wk. 4
  5. Unbroken (Uni), $8.2M, 3,301 locations, $2,475 average; total cume: $101.4M, Wk. 3
  6. The Imitation Game (TWC), $7.2M, 1,566 locations, $4,607 average; total cume: $40.4M, Wk. 7
  7. Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (Fox), $6.7M, 3,371 locations, $1,993 average; total cume: $99.5M, Wk. 4
  8. Annie (Sony), $4.8M, 2,856 locations, $1,663 average; total cume: $79.3M, Wk. 4
  9. The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death (Rel), $4.6M, 2,602 locations, $1,786 average; total cume: $22.2M, Wk. 2
  10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (LG), $3.8M, 2,063 locations, $1,825 average; total cume: $329.5M, Wk. 8
  11. Inherent Vice (WB), $2.8M, 645 locations, $4,300 average; total cume: $4.4M, 5 weeks.
  12. Wild (SEA), $2.7M, 1,286 locations, $2,082 average; total cume: $30.3M, Wk. 6
  13. Big Hero 6 (Dis), $2.3M, 1,580 locations, $1,461 average; total cume: $214.5M, Wk. 10
  14. The Gambler (Par), $2.3M, 2,121 locations, $1,087 average; total cume: $32.3M, Wk. 3
  15. Big Eyes (TWC), $1.3M, 1,044 locations, $1,204 average; total cume: $12.2M, Wk. 3
  16. Penguins Of Madagascar (Fox), $1.2M, 1,057 locations, $1,109 average; total cume: $79.9M, Wk. 7
  17. Interstellar (Par), $1.2M, 703 locations, $1,650 average; total cume: $184.8M, Wk. 10
  18. Exodus: Gods And Kings (Fox), $1.1M, 1,142 locations, $966 average; total cume: $63.7M, Wk. 5
  19. Gopala Gopala (Blue Sky Cinemas), $709K, 100 locations, $7,087 average; total cume: $709K, Wk. 1
  20. The Theory Of Everything (Focus), $674K, 408 locations, $1,651 average; total cume: $25.9M, Wk.10

UPDATED, 12:06 PM: The actuals for 20th Century Fox-EuropaCorp’s Taken 3 are in. The film posted a three-day of $39.2M, making it third-biggest weekend bow for January, not second as originally perceived yesterday. Still fantastic for the frame, but in terms of the record books, the film trailed last year’s Ride Along ($41.5M) and 2008’s Cloverfield ($40.1M). More actuals rolling in. The difference boiled down to Sunday. Fox projected $10M for the day, and auds spent $8.7M. 

PREVIOUS, SUNDAY 7:53 AM: It might be a rainy day in Hollywood this morning, but not on the Fox lot: the studio is reporting a 3-day estimate of $40.4M for EuropaCorp’s Taken 3, which if that number holds into tomorrow, will make the film the second highest January bow of all-time after last year’s Ride Along ($41.5M) and beating 2008’s Cloverfield ($40.06M). Numbers are still rolling in.

'Taken 3' Trailer debutsWhy did Taken 3 do so well? Essentially, look around the marketplace, and in terms of new mass-appealing action films, well, Taken 3 was fullfilling a need. The success of Taken 3 further underscores the strength of this Liam Neeson action franchise, and how moviegoers distinguish it from the actor’s other bang bang films.

“Bryan Mills is a special character who resonates with men, women, young and old. It obviously started with the first Taken: He’s a husband and a father who will protect his family and that overarching theme has resonated with audiences worldwide,” said 20th Century Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson on why the Takens click with crowds, more than other Neeson action titles.

While Taken 3 earned a B+ just like Taken 2 (which legged out at $139.9M), the threequel earned A- with folks over 50 and with females. Ethnic make-up for Taken 3: 46% Caucasian, 25% African American, 17% Hispanic.

Fox saw more dough on Friday with an updated estimate of $14.8M, reported a $15.6M Saturday and is projecting a $10M Sunday. Taken 2 made $49.5 during the first weekend of October 2012, and Taken 3‘s FSS is just 18% off from that. Even with industry estimates tracking Taken 3 at $40.3M, the film is still looking at the second highest opening for the first month of the year.

Selma MLK speechParamount is reporting Selma with $11.2M at 2,179 locations with a cume through three weekends of $13.487M.  Selma skewed mostly female at 61% and older with over 25 repping 82% of all moviegoers. “A lot of people remember what happened,” said Paramount’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing Megan Colligan referring to the film’s backdrop which follows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama during the Civil Rights era, “They want to go see this film and relive it.”

Selma’s traction at the B.O. has been fueled by faith-based, grass-roots African American support in a number of communities as well as awards recognition.  In certain cities, African American businesses are contributing money so that junior high students can attend the film. Communities, such as Trayvon Martin’s hometown of Sanford, Florida, there have been “hand-to-hand programs” where African American and Caucasian churches watch Selma together. “The effects are beautiful and these are communities where word of mouth travels” says Colligan.

into-the-woods-07Disney’s Into the Woods and Universal’s Unbroken, as expected, are crossing $100M. Out of all the Golden Globe best film nominees tonight, drama or comedy, Into the Woods is the highest grossing title with an industry-estimate of $105.2M.  In order to keep Into the Woods alive this awards season at the box office, Disney kept the musical at just under 3,000 engagements so as not to over-saturate the market.  Into the Woods emulated a rollout similar to Les Miserables — both were in just over 2,800 theaters in their first sesh. Disney noticed that 95% of Les Miserables’ theaters generated the bulk of its gross, and that was telling in terms of making a popular Broadway musical film adaptation work over the competitive holiday frame. Said Disney domestic distribution chief Dave Hollis this morning, “As we cross $100M, those theaters where we are not playing, such as small towns, will see that it’s a title in the zeitgeist and not one that might have felt niche at the beginning of its run.” The close grossing patterns between Unbroken and Into the Woods looking to be widening with the PG film pulling ahead.  Insiders account for the interesting B.O. phenomenon as two films that strongly appealed to families. Not to mention, both appealed tofervent fan bases: Broadway aficionados with Into the Woods and faith-based/military/fans of the book with Unbroken.

Inherent Vice 3Warner Bros. expansion of Inherent Vice racked up $2.9M in studio-reported estimates at 645 locations and a cume in its fifth frame of $4.48M. The film isn’t racking up as much money as Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous titles, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Inherent Vice hasn’t racked up the same amount of kudos as the director’s previous fare (We’ll see what happens tonight at the Globes and Oscar noms this week. So far among prime kudos, Inherent Vice has a comedy actor Globe nom for Joaquin Phoenix and four Critics Choice noms for costumes, art design, adapted screenplay and Josh Brolin’s supporting work). Four of the director’s films have busted past 1,000 engagement in their runs, largely due to awards traction. This one might not. Yes, an argument can be made that it’s never about the B.O. when it comes to a PTA film, it’s about the art. However, in an apples-to-apples comparison among his titles, Inherent Vice through its fifth weekend is running 69% behind the helmer’s Punch Drunk Love, another absurdist comedy, which finaled at $17.8M.  By the way, distributors love the director’s films, because they always deliver the bucks in the home entertainment market.

Bradley Cooper American SniperNow, when it comes to the topic of American Sniper, Warner Bros. executives are so happy, they’re doing the Snoopy dance.  It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when this Clint Eastwood film goes wide next week. Studio-reported estimates show American Sniper with $555K from four theaters, off 18%, and a third weekend running cume of $3.15M.  The film owns this weekend’s highest per theater average of $138, 750. On the list of Top 20 Theater Averages for limited films, American Sniper owns the most spots: No. 12 for last weekend ($169K), No. 14 $158K for its Christmas opening frame and No. 17 for this weekend’s per theater. The only other films to own more than one spot on the list are Disney’s Princess and the Frog and Hercules, each with two spots. At the North Park theater in Dallas, TX, American Sniper has been the hub’s highest grossing film, beating big films such as Avatar and Dark Knight Rises. At the Hollywood Arclight, American Sniper has grossed $1M through three weekends.

Below are the top 10 based on industry-reported estimates.

1). Taken 3 (Fox), 3,594 theaters /$14.7M Fri. /$15.46M Sat. (+5%)/ $10M Sun. (-35%) / 3-Day: $40.4M / Wk 1
2). Selma (Par), 2,179 theaters (+2,157) / $3.7M Fri. /$4.7M Sat. (+27%)/ $2.8M Sun. (-40%) / 3-Day: $11.2M(+1,669%)/Total cume: $13.4M / Wk 3
3). Into The Woods (DIS), 2,833 theaters (+295) / $2.4M Fri. /$4.4M Sat. (+83%)/ $2.8M Sun. (-36%) / 3-Day: $9.7M (-48%)/Total cume:$105.2M / Wk 3
4). The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (WB), 3,402 theaters (-473)/$2.4M Fri./ $4.2M Sat. (+75%)/ $2.7M Sun. (-36%) /3-Day: $9.4M (-57%) /Total cume: $236.5M/ Wk 4
5). Unbroken (UNI), 3,301 theaters (+111) / $2.59M Fri. /$3.6M Sat. (+39%)/ $2.2M Sun. (-39%) / 3-Day: $8.3M(-54%)/Total cume: $101.6M / Wk 3
6). The Imitation Game (TWC), 1,566 theaters (+812) / $2.1M Fri./ $3.3M Sat. (+55%)/ $2.1M Sun. (-35%) /3-Day: $7.6M (-2%)/Total cume: $40.8M / Wk 7
7). Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (FOX), 3,371 theaters (-431) / $1.6M Fri. / $3.2M Sat. (+100%)/ $1.85M Sun. (-42%) /3-Day: $6.7M(-53%)/Total cume: $99.5/ Wk 4
8). Annie (Sony), 2,856 theaters (-310) / $1.01M Fri. /$2.3M Sat. (+128%)/ $1.45M Sun. (-37%) / 3-Day: $4.8M (-57%)/ Total cume: $79.35M / Wk 4
9). The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (Relativity), 2,602 theaters  / $1.49M Fri./ $2.19M Sat. (+46%)/ $1.09M Sun. (-50%) / 3-Day: $4.8M (-68%)/ Total cume: $22.3M / Wk 2
10). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (LGF),2,063 theaters (-442) / $1.06M Fri. / $1.7M Sat. (+60%)/ $990K Sun. (-42%) /3-Day:$3.7M (-50%)/Total cume: $329.5M/ Wk 8
NOTABLE
Inherent Vice (WB) 645 theaters (+629)/$961K Fri. /$1.1M Sat. (+14%)/ $792M Sun. (-28%) /3-day:$2.89M (+1,051%)/Total cume:$4.65M/Wk 5
Wild (FSL), 1,286 theaters (-75)/ $809K Fri. /$1.1M Sat. (+36%)/ $736K Sun. (-33%) / 3-Day: $2.7M (-40%)/Total cume: $30.35M / Wk 6
Big Eyes (TWC), 1,044 theaters (-364)/ $368K Fri. / $564K Sat. (+53%)/ $368M Sun. (-35%) /3-Day:$1.3M (-50%)/Total cume: $12.3M / Wk 3
American Sniper (WB), 4 theaters / $156K Fri./ $234K Sat. (+%)/ $164 Sun. (-%) /3-Day: $555K (-18%)/$139K screen average/Total cume: $3.1M/ Wk 3

The Interview (Sony), 492 theaters (-89)/ $130K Fri. /$175K Sat. (+35%)/ $102K Sun. (-42%) /3-Day: $407K (-59%)/Total cume: $5.78M / Wk 3

A Most Violent Year (A24) 4 theaters/$31K Fri. / $50K Sat. (+61%)/ $33K Sun. (-34%) /3-day: $115K (-33%)/$29K weekend screen average/Total cume:$452K/Wk 2

PREVIOUS, SATURDAY 3 A.M.: 20th Century Fox/Europa’s Taken 3 isn’t doing OK. It’s doing fantastic. Late-night Friday estimates show Liam Neeson’s third outing as former CIA op Bryan Mills shooting down $14.7M – a figure that, if it sticks into the A.M. will rank as the taken 3_03third-highest opening day for a film in January behind 2008’s Cloverfield ($17.16M) and 2012’s The Devil Inside ($16.8M). Despite the fact that a number of family holiday holdovers, including Disney’s Into the Woods, Warner Bros.’ The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies and Universal’s Unbroken, posted Friday declines in excess of 55% from a week ago, 67% of all college kids are still out and spending, according to Rentrak Theatrical. Great traction considering that a majority of students K-12 have gone back to school: Only 5% were off Friday, down from 99% a week ago. Not to mention, 96% of all college students were off last Friday.

Taken 3 easily eclipsed the opening day of its first 2009 installment which clocked $9.4M, but it’s behind the October 2012 first Friday of Taken 2, which made $18.4M. The B+ Cinemascore for Taken 3 is the same as it was for Taken 2, and as we mentioned in the preview Bryan Mills fans shelled out $139.9M for the sequel. As of tonight, Taken 3 is looking at a FSS of $38.6M which would make it the third highest January bow of all-time behind last year’s Ride Along ($41.5M) and 2008’s Cloverfield ($40.1M). While it was expected that Taken 3 was going to unseat Five Armies, the Neeson film slapped the Hobbits all the way down to fourth on Friday. Out of 69 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, only 7 are fresh, giving Taken 3 a 10% rotten score. Reviews never impacted Taken fans; the franchise has always been critic-proof.

Selma Bradford YoungParamount’s Selma expanded to 2,157 theaters and took in an estimated $3.8M Friday, and its looking at a fine FSS of $11.75M by Golden Globes Sunday where the Pathe/Harpo Films co-production is nominated for four awards (best drama, director Ava DuVernay, actor David Oyelowo and the John Legend-Common’s song “Glory”). Selma is going to have a great run at the B.O. during awards season, not only as it picks up kudos heat, but it’s further propped by an A+ Cinemascore.

While the faith-based and Oprah Winfrey devotees have flocked to Selma, the film has generated a great deal of support in urban markets.  Theaters around the nation are reporting a number of group screenings with entire classes, followed by discussions and recommended reading lists. A number of African-American businesses are teaming with Paramount to create funds in major cities, New York in particular, where students can see Selma for free.  Students in these cities provide a student ID or a report card for free admittance at participating theaters. The program begins on Monday, Jan. 12 at 7pm and runs through Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 19. In New York, 27,000 students received free admission to Selma thanks to 27 African-American business leaders’ contributions.  Major institutions including the New York City Department of Education, KIPP Schools, New York City Housing Authority, Schomburg Museum, Eagle Academy, Harlem Children Zone, Harlem Village Academy, Abyssinian Baptist Church, The Boys and Girls Club, the New York Public Library, and local radio stations are reaching out to students and informing them about the opportunity to see Selma.

Compared to last year’s 12 Years a Slave, Selma looks to be grossing ahead of the Steve McQueen period film by 31% — however, that film had a slightly different platform. It never exceeded 2,000 engagements and was in far fewer theaters at the same point in time.  During its fourth weekend when 12 Years a Slave busted past 1,000 venues, it made $6.68M.

Unbroken, Five Armies and Into the Woods are in a tight-knit race Friday, and this looks to continue throughout the weekend with many distributors exclaiming that their ranks are hard to call. Fandango’s advance ticket sales monitor FANticipation are projecting Taken 3 and Selma respectively in the No. 1 and 2 spots for the weekend.  They are seeing Five Armies, Into the Woods and Unbroken in slots 3,4,5.  Three holiday releases – Into the Woods, Unbroken and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb look to fly past the century mark at the domestic B.O. by Sunday. A solid time at the multiplex, indeed.

Inherent ViceIn its fifth frame, Warner Bros.’ Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice expanded to 645 locales, and it didn’t crack the top 10 on Friday with a projected $919K and it doesn’t look like it’s going to bust the top 10 over the weekend with an anticipated $3M. Weinstein Co.’s The Imitation Game went even wider on Friday, entering 812 more locations for a count of 1,566.  The Alan Turing biopic looks to raise its cume to $40M by Sunday, led by a seventh Friday of $2.03M which only dipped 31%. Fox Searchlight’s Reese Witherspoon outdoor drama Wild will fly past the $30M mark by Sunday.  Witherspoon’s performance  as author Cheryl Strayed, who beat Mother Nature by hiking the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail, has garnered Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG noms. She continues to busily promote the film across her social media universe according to RelishMix with 1.76M Facebook followers and 302K Twitter followers. One component of Wild’s social media campaign has entailed spreading inspirational trail mantras from the film, such as this one that Witherspoon recently tweeted out:

Relativity’s The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death fell 77% in its non-holiday sophomore Friday with an estimated $1.78M. It’s looking at a FSS of $5.4M, down 64%.

By Sunday, Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 should be $3.48M away from eclipsing Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy ($333.08M) as the highest grossing movie of 2014.

Below is the Top 10 weekend box office according to industry estimates and ranked by Friday results:

1). Taken 3 (Fox), 3,594 theaters /$14.7M Fri. / 3-Day: $38.6M /Total cume: $38.6M/ Wk 1
*includes $1.6M Thursday sneak previews

2). Selma (Par), 2,179 theaters (+2,157) / $3.8M Fri. (1,595%)/ 3-Day: $11.75M(+1,758%)/Total cume: $14M / Wk 3

3). Unbroken (UNI), 3,301 theaters (+111) / $2.495M Fri. (-66%)/ 3-Day: $8.23M(-55%)/Total cume: $101.6M / Wk 3

4). The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (WB), 3,402 theaters (-473)/$2.38M (-71%)Fri./ 3-Day: $8.61M (-60%) /Total cume: $235.7M/ Wk 4

5). Into The Woods (DIS), 2,833 theaters (+295) / $2.36M Fri. (-68%)/ 3-Day:$8.68M (-54%)/Total cume:$103.8M / Wk 3

6). The Imitation Game (TWC), 1,566 theaters (+812) / $2.025M Fri.(-31%) / 3-Day: $7.04M (-9%)/Total cume: $40.3M / Wk 7

7). The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (Relativity), 2,602 theaters  / $1.782M Fri.  (-77%)/ 3-Day:$5.4M (-64%)/ Total cume: $22.9M / Wk 2

8). Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (FOX), 3,371 theaters (-431) / $1.59M Fri. (-73%) / 3-Day: $7.33M(-49%)/Total cume: $100.2 / Wk 4

9). Annie (Sony), 2,856 theaters (-310) / $1.02M Fri. (-78%)/ 3-Day: $4.34M (-61%)/ Total cume: $78.8M / Wk 4

10). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (LGF),2,063 theaters (-442) / $1M Fri. (-66%)/ 3-Day:$3.78M (-50%)/Total cume: $329.6M/ Wk 8

NOTABLE

Inherent Vice (WB) 645 theaters (+629)/$919K Fri.(+969%)/3-day:$3.019M (+1,103%)/Total cume:$4.65M/Wk 5

Wild (FSL), 1,286 theaters (-75)/ $797K Fri. (-58%)/ 3-Day: $2.83M (-38%)/Total cume: $30.5M / Wk 6

Big Eyes (TWC), 1,044 theaters (-364)/ $364KFri. (-62%)/ 3-Day:$1.26M (-52%)/Total cume: $12.2M / Wk 3

American Sniper (WB), 4 theaters / $150K Fri.(-36%) /3-Day:$467K (-31%)/$117K screen average/Total cume: $3.1M/ Wk 3

The Interview (Sony), 492 theaters (-89)/ $118K Fri. (-73%)/3-Day:$367K (-66%)/Total cume: $5.75M / Wk 3

A Most Violent Year (A24) 4 theaters/$30K Fri./3-day: $96K (-45%)/$24K weekend screen average/Total cume:$433K/Wk 2

PREVIOUS, FRIDAY 8 AM: Taken 3 is off to a solid start. 20th Century Fox is reporting the Liam Neeson-starrer took in $1.6M last night at 2,499 locations. Thursday night previews aren’t always an accurate predictor of opening weekend B.O.: Sony’s Fury posted $1.2M on its way to a $23.7M opening weekend, Fox’s Gone Girl made $1.25M in sneaks and a $37.1M three-day while the studio’s Exodus: Gods and Kings made $1.2M from 2,500 theaters in its Thursday sneak with a $24.1M FSS. Paramount is reporting that it sneaked Selma at 1,600 new theaters last night, earning $400K. The Dr. Martin Luther King biopic will be in 2,179 today and it has a 100% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score.

PREVIOUS, Thursday AM: Whenever the words Taken and January are used in the same sentence, they’re bound to bring grins to exhibitors and Fox executives. With the 2015 domestic box office off to a great start thanks to holiday holdovers, 20th Century Fox is looking to keep momentum going with the stateside release of EuropaCorp.’s Taken 3, which Liam Neeson has mentioned in interviews is the final installment for his ex-covert operative Bryan Mills. Taken 3 remains unopposed as the only new wide release this weekend at 3,593 locations, and not only is it looking at a bow in the high $20Ms (maybe $30M), but it is expected to kick The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies out of the top spot. Previews start tonight in select theaters.

Also on Friday, Paramount’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma is expanding from 22 theaters to just under 2,400. Having amassed $2.2M since its Christmas Day opening, word-of-mouth spurred by a groundswell of popular support, and co-star/producer Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of the film on OWN and via her social media, should put the Ava DuVernay film somewhere in the mid teens for the 3-day. Warner Bros.’ Paul Thomas Anderson absurdist detective noir Inherent Vice is expanding in its fifth weekend from 16 playdates to 400+. Industry estimates peg the film, which has collected a Golden Globe lead comedy acting nom for Joaquin Phoenix and four Critics Choice Movie noms (supporting actor Josh Brolin, adapted screenplay, costume design and art direction), at $3M for Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

Similar to the first two Takens, EuropaCorp financed Taken 3 and Fox is handling domestic and most foreign territories (it collected $9.5M last weekend from South Korea and Hong Kong). Taken 3 was made for a reported $48M and Europa retains France, Germany, Scandinavia, the Middle East, most of Eastern Europe (except Russia), Benelux and China. The first two Takens had combined budgets of $70M, and together chalked up a global haul of $603M.

taken 2Following the 2008 recession, Taken  was one of those movies in January 2009 that surprised everyone. The first film bowed in the U.S. close to a year after it had premiered in France in 2008. It pulled off a death-defying act at the box office: Taken actually lured guys into the theater during the B.O. dead zone frame of Super Bowl weekend, racking up a $24.7M opening and a final domestic B.O. of $145M. Taken was one of four January $100M-plus grossers that fired 2009 up and it spawned a 2012 sequel that beat the bow of the first with $49.5M and finaled at $139.9M, as well as a number of other Neeson shoot ’em ups—none of which legged out like the Takens did.

The question begged is whether Neeson has grown long in the tooth with his locking and loading. Last fall he hit an all-time low with the crime thriller novel adaptation A Walk Among The Tombstones, which posted a $26.3M domestic total, a figure on par with his action film openings. The irony has been that Neeson’s non-Taken actioners have largely been praised by critics, but have paled at the domestic B.O. in comparison to the Takens, which are typically knocked by the tweed set. “Unlike the other (action) films, audiences have an affinity for Neeson’s Bryan Mills character, that’s one of the reasons why the Taken franchise is critic-proof,” says 20th Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson. The first two chapters of Taken earned respective CinemaScores of A- and B+.

taken 3 linked inTaken 2 director Olivier Megaton returns for Taken 3, which finds Mills framed for his wife’s brutal murder. Consumed with rage, Mills goes on the run to evade the CIA, FBI and police while tracking down his wife’s killers and of course protecting his daughter. Fox rolled out an intriguing social media campaign, some of which satirized Mills’ macho character. One, cited by Ad Age as among the top 5 best brand ideas of the week, was a partnership with social resume site LinkedIn that featured a Bryan Mills fictional profile. LinkedIn members were given the chance to enter a contest whose winner would have Mills, via a video, endorse their “particular set of skills.”

Additionally, there were hysterical viral Taken 3 vids that Fox’s creative content team made, one a trailer that parodied the “12 Days of Christmas,” and the second, a music video “Stop Takin’ My Sh*t” about an irate Mills who is always against the odds. Social media monitor RelishMIX shows Taken 3 towering over other new wide releases this month when it comes to the cyber universe. Taken 3 has 72M YouTube views and a total reach of 105M across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter combined.lbj selma

Also moving the meter for Taken 3 was an ESPN NBA Christmas game cross promo where Neeson tells Washington Wizards star John Wall that “the team I support  has a very particular set of skills; skills that they’ve acquired over a fearless career.” See below: