‘Taken 3’: Liam Neeson Kidnaps Box Office Top Spot From ‘Hobbit’

Taken 3 brought an end to the three-week reign of The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies, taking the number one spot at the box office this weekend. The film posted better-than-expected numbers that are estimated to top $40 million for its opening weekend.

The film’s $14.7 million Friday take makes it the third-highest opening day for January, behind 2008’s Cloverfield, which raked in $17.16 million, and 2012’s The Devil Inside, which earned $16.8 million on their respective opening days. Taken 3’s weekend total will place it third all time for January behind last year’s Kevin Hart break out Ride Along as well as Cloverfield, according to Anthony D’Alessandro at Deadspin.

Neeson returns in this third and presumably final installment of the franchise as ex-covert operations expert Bryan Mills, whose special set of skills saw him retrieve his kidnapped daughter from Paris in the first film and his ex-wife from in Istanbul in the second. Here, Mills is framed for the murder of his ex-wife, played as in the first two by Famke Janssen, and must set out to clear his own name.

Taken 3 has been marketed with the tagline, “It Ends Now,” leading many to believe that the series would end as a trilogy, but with surprisingly strong box office numbers suggesting that the Neeson’s brand of action has not yet worn out its welcome with the movie going audience, Hollywood history would almost assure some sort of continuance to the franchise. In 2010, Lionsgate marketed the seventh installment of the Saw series as “The Final Chapter,” only to later announce an eighth film, which is currently rumored to begin production in 2016.

Whether the Taken series could be extended would almost certainly depend upon Neeson’s willingness to return to the role of Mills. As Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle points out, the deviation of Taken 3 from the formula of its predecessors can possibly be overcome by the strength of Neeson’s performance. Should Neeson depart, audiences could reject a film with a different leading star and shifting plot line under the same name. Were the series continued with Neeson, the Taken series could become something of a new age James Bond type film franchise.

Taken 3, while besting the January 2009 opening of the first film in the current trilogy — which opened to $24.7 million — fell short of the October 2012 Taken 2 opening of $49.5 million, according to Maane Khatchatourian of Variety. Both films have culled a successful $285 million between them, domestically.