‘Unknown’ Schools The Box-Office Competition

'I Am Number Four' opens at a disappointing #3 over the holiday weekend.

Liam Neeson has a solid future as an action hero if he wants it, but “I Am Number Four” may have stumbled in its attempt to build a new sci-fi young-adult franchise, according to box-office receipts.

“Unknown” took in an estimated $25.6 million over the four-day President’s Day weekend, making the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired Neeson thriller #1. Family-friendly CG-animated film “Gnomeo & Juliet,” in its second week of release, was just behind with $24.8 million, according to reports. “I Am Number Four” was a surprising third with a $22.6 million theatrical debut.

The success of “Unknown” follows on the heels of 2008′s “Taken,” the surprise smash with somewhat similar themes that proved a capable action vehicle for Neeson, the 58-year-old actor who was previously better known for dramatic fare. “Unknown” co-stars January Jones (“Mad Men”) and Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”), and was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”).

With echoes of the supernatural alienation of “Twilight” and the soapiness of CW dramas (some of the folks involved worked on “Smallville” and “Angel”), “I Am Number Four” is based on a young adult novel with obvious eyes toward sequels woven into the plot, about an alien war that comes to Earth. The movie cost between $50 and $59 million to produce, according to the Los Angeles Times, which means the somewhat soft-opening doesn’t bode well for Disney’s future plans with the franchise.

Speaking of sequels, “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son” debuted with $19 million to land at #5. Both prior entries in the fat-suit-driven Martin Lawrence comedy series — “Big Momma’s House” and “Big Momma’s House 2″ — opened much stronger in 2000 and 2006, respectively.

The Adam Sandler/ Jennifer Aniston comedy “Just Go With It” dropped to #4 in its second week of release with $18.2 million — roughly a 40 percent drop from its debut. Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” fell much harder, taking in $13.6 million in its second weekend, a 54 percent drop. The 3-D documentary has taken in $48.2 million, however, which is far more than its reported $13 million production budget.

The overall box-office numbers were down roughly 30 percent from last year’s $240 million gross the same weekend. “Avatar” ‘s strength in theaters certainly didn’t hurt around that time. 

Check out everything we’ve got on “Unknown.”

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