Liam Neeson’s ‘Taken 3’ Blasts Way to $1.6 Million at Thursday Box Office

Fox’s action sequel is expected to top Paramount’s Oscar hopeful “Selma” and unseat 3-time champ “The Hobbit” this weekend

Liam Neeson’s “Taken 3” fired its first box-office bullets Thursday night, taking in $1.6 million from preview showings.

The second sequel in 20th Century Fox and EuropaCorp’s vengeance franchise is expected to end the three-week reign of “The Hobbit”: The Battle of the Five Armies” and top Oscar frontrunner “Selma,” which also opens nationwide Friday, with over $30 million at the North American box office this weekend.

Paramount’s civil rights drama earned $400,000 at evening shows Thursday at more than 1,600 locations.

The Thursday haul from 2,499 theaters is a strong start for “Taken 3,” and tops the $1.5 million that “Taken 2” took from early shows in October of 2012. That one opened to $49.5 million and went on to make $140 million domestically and $346 million in worldwide grosses.

By Friday, the action film will be in 3,593 theaters nationwide. Paramount’s “Selma” will roll out in 2,179 locations. Warner Bros. is expanding the Paul Thomas Anderson crime drama “Inherent Vice” into 645 locations as well.

“Taken 3” has a $48 million production budget and was financed and produced by the French company EuropaCorp, which is distributing it in France, and with partners in several key European territories. The company founded by Luc Besson has a track record of making action films like the “Taken” and “Transporter” series profitable, and scored big last year with the breakout hit “Lucy.”

“Taken 3” is directed by Oliver Megaton (“Taken 2”) and written by Robert Kamen and Besson, who also produced. Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker and Dougray Scott co-star.