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Box Office: Liam Neeson’s ‘Taken 3’ Starts Solidly with $1.6 Million Thursday Night

Liam Neeson starrer “Taken 3” has launched with $1.6 million Thursday night, showing at 2,499 U.S. locations for 20th Century Fox.

The figure just beats the $1.5 million for “Taken 2” from Thursday evening shows in 2012 and is comparable to the $1.7 million for “Lone Survivor” in its Thursday evening shows a year ago. “Lone Survivor” went on to open with $37.8 million in its first weekend.

Taken 3” has been forecast to debut to roughly $30 million this weekend at 3,593 locations. The picture carries a $48 million budget and was financed by EuropaCorp, with Fox handling distribution.

Neeson is reprising his role as a former covert operative who’s on the run after being framed for the murder of his wife.

“Taken 2″ kicked off with $49.5 million in its opening weekend in 2012 on its way to a $145 million U.S. total, while the original “Taken” bowed to $24.7 million in 2009 and closed with $139 million.

UPDATE, 9:13 a.m. — Paramount’s expansion of Oscar contender “Selma” grossed $400,000 in Thursday evening shows at over 1,600 locations.

“Selma” is expected to finish second with about $15 million as it goes from 22 theaters to 2,179. Thanks to stellar reviews, “Selma” has brought in an impressive $2.1 million from the 22 locations since it opened on Christmas.

The fourth weekend of New Line-MGM’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” should finish in third place with about $13 million for the weekend. The trilogy finale grossed $1.4 million on Thursday to lift the U.S. gross to $227.1 million after 23 days.

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