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‘Taken 2’ Holds Off ‘Argo’ to Win Weekend Box Office with $22.5M

Liam Neeson thriller repeats as champ with Ben Affleck's "Argo" second with  $20.1M and "Sinister" third with $18.2M. The box office has shaken its end-of-summer doldrums

"Taken 2' rolled up $22.5 million and held off Ben Affleck's "Argo" to stay No. 1 on a busy weekend in which the overall box office was up for the third straight week.

In its second week in theaters, the Liam Neeson thriller held on to beat “Argo,” Warner Bros.’ political thriller directed by and starring Affleck, which had a solid start bringing in $20.1 million from 3,232 screens, an impressive $6,225 per-screen average.

The overall box office has shaken the its end-of-summer malaise. The weekend will wind up more than 40 pecent ahead of the comparable weekend last year when "Real Steel” was the No. 1 film in its second week with $16.3 million.

The past three weeks, coupled with the strong start of the year, have the domestic box office at $8.26 billion. That’s up nearly 4 percent from 2011 and attendance is up 2 percent for the year, according to tracking service Exhibitor Relations Co.

Audiences loved "Argo," giving it an "A+" CinemaScore. It skewed mature — 74 percent of its audience was older than 35 — and slightly female at 54 percent. Those are both good signs going forward for "Argo," which has been mentioned as an awards contender. The strong start and mature base suggest it will play strongly for weeks.

“Argo” is based on the true story of a rescue mission that utilized a fake production of a sci-fi movie to free six U.S. diplomats from Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Affleck, who produced the film with George Clooney and Grant Heslov, also stars along with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Chris Terrio wrote the screenplay, based on an article by Joshua Bearman.

Also read: Ben Affleck: 'Argo' Is a 'Hard Movie to Sell' (Exclusive)

Fox's PG-13-rated "Taken 2" was on 3,706 screens, 45 more than it was in its debut weekend, when it took in nearly $50 million. Its overall domestic gross now stands at more than $86.7 million, well ahead of the original "Taken," which wound up with $145 million in 2009.

"Taken 2" added another $41 million overseas, raising its international haul to $132.8 million in two weeks, and its worldwide overall gross to $219.5 million. Again, that's well ahead of the original, which topped out at $226 million worldwide.

“Sinister,” a low-budget horror thriller from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment starring Ethan Hawke, scared up $18.2 million from 2,527 screens, a strong 7,222 per-screen average. Audiences gave it just a “C+" CinemaScore, but with "Sinister" taking in six times its $3 million production budget in four days, producers Jason Blum, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and writer and director Scott Derrickson won't be complaining.

Sony Pictures Animation continued to enjoy a great hold with its family comedy "Hotel Transylvania." The film was off only 36% from last weekend and took in $17.3 million from 3,375 locations for a per-screen average of $5,126. Its overall gross after three weeks is $102 million.

The Sony opener "Here Comes The Boom" had a strong Saturday and wound up with $12 million from 3,014 locations. The PG-rated family comedy starring Kevin James earned an A Cinemascore.

“Seven Psychopaths” brought in $4.2 million from 1,480 locations in its debut. That's less than the studio had hoped for, but the film's core audience, males 18-34, gave the film an "A-" CinemaScore giving CBS Films something to build on when it expands the film in two weeks.

The weekend's other opener, “Atlas Shrugged: Part II," from Atlas Distribution, misfired and took in just $1.7 million from 1,102 locations.

Universal’s comedy musical “Pitch Perfect” continued to hit high notes, and raised its overall domestic gross to $36 million after three weeks with a $9 million weekend.

Disney's Tim Burton stop-action animated film "Frankenweenie" managed $7 million and its gross after two weeks is $22 million.

Summit expanded "Perks of Being a Wallflower" into 725 locations. The film, starring Emma Watson, averaged $2,983 per screen and brought in $2.1 million to finish No. 10 overall and raise its overall gross to $6.1 million after four weeks.