Box Office: Liam Neeson’s ‘Taken 3’ Targeting $38.5 Million Weekend

Liam Neeson has dethroned “The Hobbit” following three consecutive wins at the U.S. box office.

Taken 3” opened to $14.7 million on Friday and is targeting $38.5 million this Golden Globes weekend. The sum is far above recent forecasts of $30 million, but below the opening take of the last film in the hit franchise.

“Taken 2” launched to $49.5 million in October 2012, ultimately grossing $139.8 million in the U.S., while the original film debuted to $24.7 million in January 2009, surprising with a whopping $145 million domestic cume.

Taken 3” was produced by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp for $48 million and distributed by Fox.

Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, who must hunt down his ex-wife’s killers, who’ve framed him for her murder. Forest Whitaker joins the franchise as Inspector Frank Dotzler. He’s among the CIA, FBI and police officers searching for Mills.

Oscar contender “Selma” was runner-up on Friday after expanding from 22 to 2,179 theaters this weekend. The Martin Luther King Jr. historical drama made $3.8 million on its way to an impressive $11 million weekend.

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Paramount’s “Selma” has already earned $2.1 million since opening against steep competition on Christmas Day thanks to critical acclaim (it’s earned 98% on Rotten Tomatoes) and recent accolades. The film is up for best picture, drama, at the Golden Globes this Sunday.

The movie was directed by Ava DuVernay and stars David Oyelowo as the civil rights leader. Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are among the producers.

Meanwhile, “Unbroken,” “Into the Woods” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” were in as tight a race as it gets at the Friday box office.

Universal’s “Unbroken” led the pack on Friday with $2.6 million, but should fall to fifth by Sunday with $8.4 million. Like “Into the Woods,” the Angelina Jolie-directed war drama is down 54% and will cross $100 million this weekend.

Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” brought in $2.465 million on Friday, practically tied with “Into the Woods.” Down 70%, the last installment in the mega-successful “Hobbit” franchise is shooting for a fourth-place finish with $8.5 million in its fourth weekend. It will have likely earned $235 million by Sunday.

However, “Into the Woods” is right on its tail and will finish the overall weekend ahead in third place. It took in $2.455 million on Friday and stands to close its third frame with $8.6 million, raising its domestic cume to $104 million.

Another Oscar contender and Golden Globe nominee, “The Imitation Game,” came in sixth place with $2.1 million on Friday. The Weinstein Co. historical thriller on logician Alan Turing should gross $7.6 million this weekend — and impressively, it’s down just 2% from last weekend.

Joaquin Phoenix’s “Inherent Vice” expanded this weekend from 16 to 645 locations. It made $960,000 on Friday and is headed for $3 million the weekend.

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