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‘Taken 2’ nabs $50 mil to double predecessor’s debut take

Liam Neeson thriller powers weekend up 53% over 2011

If ever there were doubts of Liam Neeson being a box office bad-ass, the weekend’s estimated $105 million global gross for Fox’s “Taken 2,” including $50 million Stateside, has put them to rest.

The international action-thriller doubled the domestic opening of its 2009 predecessor, helping fuel a 50% year-over-year domestic weekend surge.

Fox also earned almost $40 million as it released the film day-and-date in 28 overseas territories. “Taken” launched in an additional 22 markets via local distribs (including France and Russia), which contributed another $16 million this weekend. Pic has totaled $67 million so far overseas, which includes an 11-day cume of $13.8 million from South Korea.

The sequel’s worldwide haul reached $117 million through Sunday.

Fox domestic distribution topper Chris Aronson said “Taken 2” isn’t expected to have the same six-times domestic multiple, based on its higher opening, as the $145 million-grossing original, “but (the sequel) should get to the same place — only quicker.”

In the States, Universal’s wide expansion of college tuner “Pitch Perfect” performed as expected, with an estimated $14.7 million, while Disney’s stop-motion 3D B&W toon “Frankenweenie” underperformed, nabbing just $11.5 million.

“Pitch Perfect” should make a tidy profit for U. The film, which received an A CinemaScore rating, cost just $17 million and has cumed $21.6 million domestically.

“Frankenweenie” marks the second recent modest perf for a stop-motion toon, after “ParaNorman” stalled somewhat during its opening frame in mid-August. The black-and-white component (in 3D) of the Tim Burton toon may have further deterred some families with young kids.

The Disney pic, which cost $39 million to produce, was hurt significantly by the holdover presence of Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania,” which in its second frame dropped just 38% — enough to claim second place overall with a projected $26.3 million, for a 10-day domestic cume of $76 million.

In limited release, Millennium Entertainment’s release of Lee Daniel’s “The Paperboy” got off to an OK start, averaging north of $10,000 from 11 Stateside locations.

Summit’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” continues to distinguish itself at the specialty box office, expanding to 221 locations — up from 102 last weekend — for a third-sesh gross of $1.5 million. “Perks” has cumed $3.3 million domestically.

Box office action all-star

In 2009, “Taken” became a sleeper hit, grossing more than $225 million at the global box office. Two years later, Neeson propelled Warner Bros.’ “Unknown,” a “Taken”-lite actioner, to a respectable $131 million worldwide gross.

Earlier this year, Neeson starrer “The Grey” became domestic distrib Open Road’s highest-grossing release so far, with nearly $52 million (pic earned more than $77 million globally via local distribs).

Taken 2,” which cost $45 million to produce, scored a solid B+ CinemaScore (as did “Frankenweenie”), with a slightly more even demo spread than the first “Taken.” Over-25 auds, for instance, contributed 56% of the sequel’s opening take vs. the first pic’s 60% turnout among this age group. Men generated 52% of the sequel’s debut total — the same as the original.

Most bizzers pegged “Taken 2” to land in the mid-$40 millions through Sunday, but Fox modestly insisted a high-$30 million gross was more reasonable given the recent sluggish B.O. climate (last weekend notwithstanding).

“There was nothing in the recent market, nor did tracking suggest that the film could do this sort of business,” Aronson said.

‘Frank’s’ faint fanboy spark

Disney was counting on fanboys for “Frankenweenie,” but the toon’s poor evening turnout on Friday suggested that “Taken 2” drew a larger-than-expected chunk of the opening-night fanboy crowd.

Still, the toon earned 11% of its gross from Imax — a largely fanboy format — with couples contributing 32% of the film’s weekend gross. Families, not surprisingly, made up the toon’s largest audience segment (at 56%), compared to teens, at just 12%.

“Frankenweenie” scored half of its debut gross from 3D, though without Imax, 3D would have contributed just 39% — better than “Brave” (34%) and “Hotel Transylvania” (35%), but worse than “Madagascar 3” (45%) and “The Lorax” (52%).

Dave Hollis, exec VP of motion pictures sales and distribution at Disney, said positive reviews and word-of-mouth should help “Frankenweenie” expand demographically — especially among fanboys — in the weeks leading up to Halloween. “When it’s all said and done, we’ve got a really great movie,” Hollis said.

Another positive sign for “Frankenweenie” is that the toon saw a healthy 40% uptick from Friday to Saturday. That’s compared to Burton’s 2005 stop-motion toon “Corpse Bride,” which increased just 14% after opening day. “ParaNorman” rose 18%.

Universal domestic distribution prexy Nikki Rocco said “Pitch Perfect” displayed promising staying power, declining as little as 25% at most holdover plexes. At the Grove in Los Angeles, “Pitch” actually increased 12% on Saturday.

“This is like the little-picture-that-could,” Rocco said. “It should wind up profitable for us.”

And speaking of tenacity, Paramount-DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” surged again in its 18th overseas frame, thanks to its release in German-speaking territories. The toon grossed an additional $23.3 million, bringing its offshore total to $451 million and counting.

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