The combined potential might of Liam Neeson's "Taken 2," Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" and the expansion of "Pitch Perfect" into more theaters bode well for Hollywood's prospects this weekend, according to industry experts and analysts.
"With the top five films all expected to score big bucks, expect an uptick of 35 percent versus the same weekend last year," Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock told MTV News.
"The take from the top ten for this coming weekend along, depending on how big 'Taken 2' is, may well be around $113 million," said IMDb's Keith Simanton. He predicted "Taken 2" will take the top spot, with "Hotel" behind at #2.
Neeson's action-oriented "Taken" was a surprise hit in January 2009, eventually collecting over $145 million domestically. The movie ended up with a 58 percent score on RottenTomatoes, which aggregates reviews from critics. But the sequel sat at just 15 percent at press time. " 'Taken 2' must not be taken 2 seriously," quipped NPR's Stephanie Zacharek.
"In this era of choosier filmgoers, even a whisper of 'rottenness' from a film can doom it to home video," noted Joel Amos, managing editor for MovieFanatic.com. "But 'Taken 2' has a shot to be box-office champ. Neeson is a popular action hero."
Simanton agreed that goodwill for the original and its star will propel the sequel financially. "I was thinking that all that negativity would pull 'Taken 2' down to the high 20s. But Ray Subers, editor of Box Office Mojo, pointed out to me that reviews won't mean anything in this case. Bad reviews didn't stop people from going to the execrable 'Hangover 2.' "
"Neeson has always been a much respected dramatic actor," Bock pointed out, crediting the actor's roles in "Star Wars Episode I" and "Batman Begins" with casting him in the more action-oriented light that resulted in hits like "Taken," "Unknown," "The A-Team" and "The Grey." "Don't be surprised if he's tapped to join 'The Expendables 3.' "
Simanton put the number for "Taken 2" around $40 million, while Bock put it at $36 million. Simanton gave "Hotel" the edge against the similarly Halloween themed "Frankenweenie," which should slide in behind it at #3. Bock said it will be very close between the two — so close, in fact, they could even end up tied for second.
"Macabre has been front and center for family audiences recently as 'Frankenweenie' marks the third original animated film in a row that is distinctly derivative of Halloween and its spooky themes, following 'ParaNorman' and 'Transylvania,' " said Bock. "Sony's surprise hit was a graveyard smash last weekend and will no doubt slice some fat off 'Frankenweenie's' box-office cut. Still, this is Tim Burton's most commercially viable stop-motion project to date."
Speaking of commercially viable projects, "Pitch Perfect" will expand into more theaters this weekend, following its successful limited release. Bock put the movie's second week at about $17 million; Simanton at $14 million.
" 'Pitch Perfect' is going to take over the world," said MTV Next Movie's Brooke Tarnoff. "A lot of people have already seen it more than once. And by people, I mean the ladies. And by the ladies, I mean me! It capitalizes on a lot of the things that made 'Glee' so popular, with elements of 'Bring it On' thrown in. I just can't imagine this doing poorly nationwide."
"V/H/S," "Buttery" and "The Paperboy" are playing in too few theaters to make much of a dent. " 'The Paperboy' is a camp classic in the making with Nicole Kidman having rough sex with John Cusack and peeing on Zac Efron," said Simanton.
Bock said all three movies "look like they should have gone straight to video," noting that the big name cast and the aforementioned Efron scene was getting "The Paperboy" the most attention. "It should see a decent per-theater average before it rides a wave of mediocrity to your nearest Redbox," he concluded.