Box office revenues soared 58 percent over a year ago thanks to a handful of films that overperformed, led by Liam Neeson action pic "Taken 2" and Ben Affleck's awards darling "Argo."
From 20th Century Fox and EuropaCorp, "Taken 2" grossed $22.5 million from 3,706 theaters in its second weekend to stay at No. 1. An unqualified hit, the pic has now earned $86.8 million domestically and $132.8 million internationally for a worldwide total of $220 million -- just shy of the $226.8 million earned by the first "Taken" in its entire run.
"Argo," from Warner Bros., grossed a strong $20.1 million from 3,232 locations in its debut to easily take the No. 2 spot. The critically acclaimed film surged 47 percent from Friday to Saturday as moviegoers flocked to see the period political thriller, about the rescue of six Americans during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
Affleck both directed and stars in the $44 million film, which received a glowing A+ CinemaScore, guaranteeing a long run for the film throughout awards season.
The movie's opening weekend was fueled by older moviegoers -- 93 percent of the audience was over the age of 25, and 52 percent over the age of 50 -- but Warners is confident the audience will expand. In terms of gender, 54 percent were females.
"Good movies rise to the occasion. Both 'The Town' (also directed by Affleck) and 'Gran Torino' played older initially and then turned into four-quadrant movies," Warners president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said.
Based on the true story of the rescue of six Americans hiding out at the Canadian Embassy during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, "Argo" also headlines Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film chronicles how the Americans were able to escape Iran after the CIA and specialist Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, staged a fake movie production as a cover.
GK Films and Smokehouse, George Clooney and Grant Heslov's former production company, produced "Argo."
Summit Entertainment's pre-Halloween pic "Sinister" also overperformed, taking the No. 3 spot with $18.3 million from 2,527 theaters. The pic is the most profitable of the weekend, considering it cost under $3 million to make.
The R-rated "Sinister" marks another victory for uber horror producer Jason Blum and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones' Automatik, a joint venture between IM Global and Alliance. They produced alongside the film's writer and director, Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose"). The film stars Ethan Hawke as a true-crime writer whose family is plunged into danger after he finds a box of gruesome home movies.
"Whenever you overperform industry expectations, it's always a nice thing," Lionsgate executive president of distribution David Spitz.
Sinister, receiving a C+ CinemaScore, common for a horror film, skewed slightly male (54 percent), while two-thirds of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 34.
Sony's animated hit "Hotel Transylvania" showed no signs of slowing down in its third weekend as it jumped the $100 million mark, grossing $17.3 million to come in No. 4. The film's domestic cume is $102.2 million; internationally, it's also overperforming and has grossed $49.3 million through Sunday from a total of 24 markets.
"'Hotel Transylvania' is performing beyond anyone's imagination, and the holds are ridiculous. It exceeds expectations in every new market it opens in," Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said.
"Hotel Transylvania" even beat new Sony family comedy "Here Comes the Boom," starring Kevin James (also a voice lead in "Hotel Transylvania") and Salma Hayek. The pic, produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Madison, grossed a soft $12 million from 3,014 theaters to place No. 5. The film did receive an A CinemaScore.
CBS Films' dark comedy "Seven Psychopaths," only opening in 1,480 locations, slightly underperformed in grossing $4.3 million to place No. 9. A favorite on the festival circuit, the pic stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Abbie Cornish.
Saturday's live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's "L'Elisir d'Amore" placed No. 10 with $2.3 million from 900 theaters. The broadcast kicks off the seventh season of "The Met: Live in HD" program.
Summit's specialty pic "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" placed No. 11 as it expanded into a total of 726 theaters, grossing $2.2 million for a pleasing cume of $6.2 million.
Conservative offering "Atlas Shrugged: Part II" came in No. 12 in its debut, grossing $1.7 million from 1,071 theaters.
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