WINNER OF THE WEEK: Liam Neeson. The 60-year-old's reputation as moviegoers' senior ass-kicker of choice was already secure, but Taken 2 carves it in stone. The action sequel opened this weekend with an estimated $50 million, outperforming even the most optimistic projections. In fact, it more than doubled the debut of 2009's Taken, the movie that started Neeson on the current, lucrative old-guy-you-don't-want-to-mess-with trajectory of his career. It also marked the third-biggest October opening ever, a hair behind the $50.4 million debut of Jackass 3D (2010) and the $52.3 million premiere of last year's Paranormal Activity 3.
Even so, there was enough wealth to go around. Looper, the movie most likely to suffer from Taken 2's entry into the marketplace (it's another action/revenge saga with an AARP-aged bruiser hero, Bruce Willis) dropped two slots to fourth place and earned an estimated $12.2 million, just 41 percent less than last week's debut, for a not-bad 10-day total of $40.3 million. And musical comedy Pitch Perfect, expanding wide from last week's promising limited opening, made good on that promise with an estimated $14.7 million, for a total to date of $21.6 million.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Tim Burton. No one expected much from Frankenweenie, since the animated horror comedy opened this weekend so close on the heels of last week's monster hit, the similar Hotel Transylvania. (That slipped to second this week with an estimated $26.3 million, down just 38 percent from a week ago, for a 10-day total of $75.9 million.) Even so, Frankenweenie – in which Burton unearthed and resurrected the 1984 short of the same name that launched his career – underperformed expectations, scaring up only an estimated $11.5 million to debut in fifth place. Coming on the heels of Burton's disappointing Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which Burton produced but didn't direct), Frankenweenie marks the third straight undead dog in a career now in need of serious reanimation.
HERE'S TO YOU, MRS. ROBINSON: At the art house, this weekend marked the debut of The Paperboy, the film that became notorious on the festival circuit as the picture where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. Either because that spectacle fulfilled the secret fantasy of many moviegoers, or else just because they wanted to ogle the cougar-and-cub action between the uninhibited Kidman and the game youngster, Paperboy earned a strong $10,000 per screen, according to estimates, for a limited-release debut of $110,000. That's a lot more promising than the week's other illicit May-December romance, between Leighton Meester and Hugh Laurie, in The Oranges, which earned an estimated $180,000 but was playing on 10 times as many screens. Maybe a little golden shower would have given Oranges more juice.
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