Liam Neeson Rules Box Office Again With ‘Taken 2′

Ben Affleck's critically acclaimed 'Argo' came in a close second with a $20.1 million debut.

Ben Affleck has played a superhero, a bank robber and a CIA analyst, but none of that experience mattered when he went up against a certain 60-year-old, Oscar-nominated Irishman over the weekend. Though Affleck’s third directorial outing, the critically acclaimed “Argo,” gave it a strong run for its money, Liam Neeson’s “Taken 2″ remained the #1 movie in America.

Neeson’s action sequel was able to fend off competition from multiple new films, generating another $22.5 million for a two-week $86.7 million total. Horror flick “Sinister” posted a strong debut, but the Kevin James comedy “Here Comes the Boom,” meta crime caper “Seven Psychopaths” and the conservative-friendly “Atlas Shrugged: Part II” all underperformed.

“Argo” made an estimated $20.1 million domestically during its debut outing, driven by incredibly strong reviews and much Oscar buzz. “Argo” didn’t pack quite the firepower of the last movie Affleck directed and starred in, “The Town,” which made $23.8 million when it opened in 2010. (To be fair, the period subject matter in “Argo” isn’t as broad.) “The Town” eventually made $92.2 million. Affleck’s directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” made $20.3 million during its theatrical run in 2007.

“Sinister” opened at #3 with $18.3 million, which was a great start, considering it was made for just $3 million. Starring Ethan Hawke, “Sinister” is from the same producers as the similarly low-budget “Insidious.” ‘Though “Sinister” is the better reviewed of the two horror flicks, it will face strong Halloween-season competition from “Paranormal Activity 4″ this weekend.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Zookeeper” and “The Dilemma” all did better for Kevin James than “Here Comes the Boom,” which debuted at #5 with just $12 million. The comedic actor voiced Frankenstein in Adam Sandler’s “Hotel Transylvania,” which has proven to be a much bigger success for Sony. The animated children’s comedy was #4 over the weekend with $17.3 million. “Hotel Transylvania” is now the first fall film to cross the $100 million mark, with more than $102 million in domestic sales.

“In Bruges” writer/director Martin McDonagh’s second movie, “Seven Psychopaths,” debuted with just $4.28 million. Critics have embraced the flick (“This is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in years,” wrote Richard Roeper) and it played on just 1,480 screens (by comparison, “Taken 2″ was on 3,706), but that’s still a weak opening for the film. “Atlas Shrugged: Part II” played in even fewer locations (1,021, to be exact) and made just $1.71. Last year, “Atlas Shrugged” opened in 299 theaters but made $1.69 million. At press time, “Part II” had a zero percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Taken 2″ and “Argo.”.