It's official: Neeson Season has stretched to October.
Liam Neeson's Taken 2 kicked its way back into the top slot for a second weekend with an estimated $22.5 million, and Ben Affleck's political thriller Argo and the Ethan Hawke horror flick Sinister were close second and third, respectively. The one-two-three punch helped boost the box office to a fabulous 47 percent gain over the same weekend in 2011, when Real Steel slugged its way to a second No. 1 finish.
While Taken 2 continues to outpace the 2009 original after 10 days, it's notched $86.8 million, in comparison to Taken's $53.6 million total in the same time frame it still dropped a hefty 54.6 percent from its astounding $49.5 million opening weekend. At that rate, it'll be tough (though not impossible) for the film to ultimately best Taken's $145 million domestic gross.
With $20.1 million, Argo, about the C.I.A. mission to extract six Americans trapped in Iran during the 1979/1980 hostage crisis, did not quite beat Ben Affleck's 2010 Boston heist thriller The Town, which opened at No. 1 in 2010 with $23.8 million. But it's still a big win for the actor-director, who could ride the film's stellar reviews and superlative word-of-mouth it earned a rare "A+" grade from CinemaScore all the way to the Dolby Theater in February. A full 52 percent of the audience was over 50, with a 54/46 split between women and men. Also a good sign for Affleck's resurgent second career as a filmmaker: 20 percent of audiences reported seeing the film because he was the director. Put it all together, and Argo appears to have a lot of life left in it.
After leading the pack on Friday, the quasi-found footage horror film Sinister, produced by Jason Blum and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Insidious) and directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), ultimately fell to third with $18.3 million. It's a respectable showing, besting studio Summit Entertainment's expectations and making back its $3 million budget six times over, thanks to a savvy marketing campaign that began with the film's surprise showing at the SXSW Film Festival in March. Still, the opening was lower than last winter's The Woman in Black ($20.9 million) or The Devil Inside ($33.7), and with a par-for-the-genre "C+" CinemaScore, the film better hope to vacuum up as much horror audience money as possible before Paranormal Activity 4 also produced by Blum blasts into theaters this coming weekend.
So it's clear that audiences were in a mood for thrills and chills this weekend. Laughs, not so much. Here Comes the Boom whimpered into fifth place with $12 million, by far the worst opening weekend of star Kevin James' career. The folks who did shell out to see the film did at least enjoy themselves: It earned an "A" CinemaScore, with 46 percent of the audience under 25 years old. (Hotel Transylvania, in which James provides the voice of Frankenstein, came in just ahead of Boom, banking $17.3 million en route to passing the $100 million milestone in its third weekend, with $102.2 million total.)
The meta crime comedy Seven Psychopaths, meanwhile, landed in ninth place, with a mere $4.3 million in 1,480 theaters for an unfortunate $2,889 per location average. It must be a frustrating result for distributor, CBS Films, which marshaled an eccentric grass-roots marketing campaign to sell the film's offbeat sense of humor. At the very least, the company can be grateful it wasn't releasing Atlas Shrugged: Part II. The second half of the adaptation of Ayn Rand's epic seminal tome collapsed in 11th place with $1.7 million on 1,012 screens. That is just slightly better than 2011′s Atlas Shrugged: Part I, which opened to $1.69 million on 299 screens. Shrugged, indeed.
Elsewhere, The Perks of Being a Wallflower expanded to 726 theaters in its fourth weekend, pulling in $2.2 million for $6.2 million total. And the drama Middle of Nowhere which won director Ava DuVernay the best director award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival opened in six theaters to a healthy $13,000 per location average.