WINNER OF THE WEEK: Liam Neeson. You don't want to mess with the 60-year-old butt-kicker. Taken 2 lost nearly 55 percent of last week's business, falling to an estimated $22.5 million, and yet it still made enough to repeat as the week's top-grossing movie, defeating five new wide releases.
That's no shame for Argo and Sinister, both of which did about as well as predicted. The former, a Ben Affleck spy thriller, debuted at Number Two with an estimated $20.1 million. That's a good number, given its primarily adult appeal and R rating, even though the film is riding a tremendous wave of Oscar buzz. Sinister has also been riding a wave of good advance reviews – usually, horror films don't screen for critics at all – that helped make up for its low-budget and modest ad campaign, resulting in a third-place opening with an estimated $18.3 million.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Kevin James. With an estimated $12 million premiere, the fifth-place Here Comes the Boom suffered the lowest opening of any James vehicle yet. Even though it was the only new family offering this weekend, it still didn't do as well as the Number Four movie, the three-week-old Hotel Transylvania, which earned an estimated $17.3 million this weekend. At least James has a voice role in that cartoon, so the weekend's not a total loss for him.
Also faring poorly: the dog-nappers of Seven Psychopaths. The quirky, violent black comedy was always going to be a specialty release, but clever marketing and a cast that included Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken was expected to elevate the movie to a debut of about $7 million (or $1 million per psychopath). Instead, it premiered at Number Nine with just an estimated $4.3 million.
ELECTION? WHAT ELECTION?: Even so, those movies did better than Atlas Shrugged: Part II, which opened aggressively on 1,012 screens but still took in just an estimated $1.7 million, about the same as the first installment earned in April 2011 when it opened on just 299 screens. You'd think that this weekend, after Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan's vice presidential debate performance and with the election less than a month away, a movie based on Rand's magnum opus would be a big seller. However, it's just one of many political movies flailing in the marketplace. 2016: Obama's America did very well for a while, and Last Ounce of Courage showed some initial promise, but both have fallen off the chart altogether. Did they open too early and peak too soon? Is it possible that the market for right-leaning movies has been exaggerated, or is it just that moviegoers don't want polemics as much as they want entertainment? Right now, there's a movie with a pro-America message wrapped in a fizzy tale of cloak-and-dagger thrills and show-business satire: it's called Argo, and it opened above $20 million this weekend.