The lesson in the weekend’s box office report is that critics are not everything. In proof of one of the biggest gaps between audience response and what reviewers had to say in the action genre since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Taken 2 is absolutely dominating the first weekend of October. What we are seeing is an $18.6 million Friday leading to a near-$50 million weekend. Early numbers late last night said $40 million and even that was adjusted up which gave us the feeling the Liam Neeson fans were content with the latest Taken movie. Verification came eventually in the CinemaScore which came in at a B+.
The fall has been really dry so far at the box office with exception to last weekend’s successes seen with Looper and Hotel Transylvania, so this is certainly positive. Hollywood is getting the sense that the hangover spell from after the Aurora Massacre has subsided and audiences are returning to normal levels. Ultimately, I do not buy into this notion of Taken 2 being just one hell of a movie–so powerful that Neeson kick started an entire industry. Let’s not forget that the studios pretty much ignored the mass-market PG-13 sector for a solid month. Three words: Pent up demand.
While Taken 2 pretty much foreshadowed everything on Friday, it is worth acknowledging that Pitch Perfect ($4.9 million) and Frankenweenie ($3.3 million) each debuted wonderfully (there might be some debate about the latter) while the surprise hit Hotel Transylvania ($6.5 million, -40%) had its second Friday. For the most part, it is aces all around; however, Disney might have wanted Frankenweenie to do a lot better given their marketing might put behind the Tim Burton-directed, stop-motion animated effort. We knew this would happen last weekend because families have voted Hotel Transylvania into their hearts, so this is not exactly a surprise by any means.
In terms of the action leader from last weekend, Looper ($3.5 million) got deflated as expected with half of its Friday total one-week ago. That film received great word of mouth and stellar reviews which will help the film to profitability, so do not feel too bad that this Rian Johnson-directed near-masterpiece is being outshined here.