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'Taken' tops at box office with $24.6m

Fox's "Taken," starring Liam Neeson, took hold at the box office this weekend, nabbing an impressive $24.6 million, the second-best Super Bowl debut (behind last year's "Hannah Montana"), according to Media by Numbers.

Fox’s Liam Neeson CIA thriller “Taken” was able to push tubby “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” aside at this weekend’s box office, nabbing an impressive $24.6 million, the second-best Super Bowl debut ever (behind last year’s “Hannah Montana”), according to Media by Numbers. The film, starring Neeson as a former operative trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter, proves that male movie-goers can still make time for the movies on one of the year’s biggest sports weekends.
But Sony’s surprise hit “Blart” stayed in the game -- the Kevin James comedy about a klutzy security guard banked $14 million. The film only saw a slight 35% drop in its third weekend in theaters, bringing its total to around $83 million as it rapidly approaches the $100 million mark.
“The Uninvited,” Paramount’s PG-13 rated horror film, came in third with $10.5 million while “Hotel for Dogs” followed with $8.7 million. Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s lukewarm Renee Zellweger-Harry Connick Jr. romantic comedy “New in Town” was barely welcomed in theaters, bringing in a less-than-stellar gross of $6.75 million.
Box office revenues were up about 20% this month as compared to the same time last year, scoring a record $1.03 billion for January. Attendance was up 16%. “Blart’s” success as well as “Gran Torino,” – Clint Eastwood’s highest-grossing film which added $8.6 million to its $110 domestic gross this weekend – have helped to make January a profitable month.
Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” whose director Danny Boyle won the top prize at the Directors Guild Awards on Saturday,  expanded to 1,663 theaters in its second weekend in wide release, grossing $7.7 million to bring its total to $67.2 million in 12 weeks. Other Oscar best picture hopefuls expanded nationwide as well, but didn’t see huge returns – The Weinstein Co’s “The Reader” grossed $2.4 million but was up 69% from last weekend, while “Milk” added $1.4 million to a $23.4 million tally. 
Rank     Name Weeks     Gross Per Screen Avg. Total
1 Taken (Fox) 1 $24.6m $7,736 $24.6m
2 Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony/Columbia) 3 $14.0m $4,367 $83.4m

The Uninvited (Paramount)

1 $10.5m $4,485 $10.5m
4 Hotel for Dogs (Paramount) 3 $8.7m $2,755 $48.2m
5 Gran Torino (Warner Bros.) 8 $8.6m $2,852 $110.5m
6 Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) 12 $7.7m $4,703 $67.2m
7 Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Sony/Screen Gems) 2 $7.2m $2,447 $32.8m
8 New in Town (Lionsgate) 1 $6.8m $3,478 $6.8m
9 My Bloody Valentine 3-D (Lionsgate) 3 $4.3m $3,030 44.6m
10 Inkheart (Warner Bros.) 2 $3.7m $1,394 12.8m
Saturday Update:
Twentieth Century Fox’s Liam Neeson action-thriller “Taken” scored a touchdown Friday, taking in an estimated $9.4 million and making the day the best opening day ever for Super Bowl weekend.
The film, in which Neeson stars as a former government operative trying to save his kidnapped daughter, could pull in over $22 million this weekend, according to studio insiders.
No such good news for another new entrant this weekend. Despite the star power of Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., Lionsgate’s latest romantic comedy “New in Town,” flopped, taking in a  meager $2.4 million on Friday. That film trails far behind the surprise Kevin James hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” which could add another $14 million to its current $73 million total, nearing the coveted $100 million mark.
Paramount’s horror film “The Uninvited” made $4.3 million from 2,344 runs on Friday and is predicted to up its total to around $10 million.
Oscar hopefuls continue to benefit off of the hype from the recent nominations – both Universal’s Frost/Nixon and Focus Features’ “Milk” could make $1.3 million before weekend’s end.
As usual, the Super Bowl is set to dominate the pop culture landscape this weekend, but Hollywood will still be releasing new movies for those who probably won't be firmly parked in front of the television -- namely women.
Paramount's "The Uninvited," Lionsgate's "New in Town" and Fox's "Taken" are the major films set for wide release, and each hopes to tap a movie-going audience.  But don't expect a box office bump over last year.
"This will probably be the first down weekend in six weeks for one simple reason: a year ago, "Hannah Montana" in 3D, the concert movie, opened with $31 million. These movies opening will do fine. But nothing will open with $31 million. It will be a tough comparison to last year," said Paul Degarabedian from Media by Numbers.
"Uninvited" (2,344 screens), yet another horror flick in the style of "The Ring" - about a girl whose dead mother returns to warn her about the new lady in the house - hopes to appeal to the female market with its scary subject matter and PG-13 rating. "Taken" (3,183 screens), featuring Liam Neeson as an ex-CIA agent who tries to save his daughter from sex traffickers, has more female appeal as well, also helped by a PG-13 rating. Finally, the comedy "New in Town" (1,941 screens) has Renee Zellweger playing a tough consultant who comes to a small-town to shake up a manufacturing plant, while contending with local opposition and personal doubts; the film may attract women too, but hasn't had much buzz in the marketplace.
Lionsgate, which is releasing the comedy, sees the film as having a recession-based theme, and hoping that will count with viewers.
These new entries will face off against Focus Features' "Milk" and Weinstein Co.'s "The Reader," both of which expand nationwide, Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire," and holdovers including "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon" and "Paul Blart: Mall Cop."

 Dergarabedian predicts that the fat, tubby guy will again dominte the box office. "It's possible he'll be no one for three weeks in a row," he said. "Paul Blart allows people to go the mall without spending money."