"Non-Stop" dethroned three-time champion "The LEGO Movie" (which includes Neeson in its voice cast) and narrowly defeated "Son of God."
It's been exactly 20 years since the Irish actor was recognized by the Academy. "Schindler's List" took home awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, but Neeson lost the Best Actor race to Tom Hanks.
But while he's yet to win an Academy Award, the 61 year old Neeson has redefined himself as an action hero badass, ruling the box office in the early part of the year with films like "Taken." Over the weekend, "Non-Stop" (starring Neeson as an air marshall) continued the tradition. Neeson and Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra ("Non-Stop," "Unknown") already have a third team-up on the way. "Run All Night," about an aging hitman, is set for February, 2015.
"Non-Stop" gave Universal their third #1 film this year, coming on the heels of the two biggest January openings ever, "Ride Along" and "Lone Survivor." Of course, the studio isn't having as good of a run as Disney, whose blockbuster smash "Frozen" crossed the $1 billion mark over the weekend. Of the other 17 films to have accomplished that feat worldwide, six of them belong to the Mouse House, including "Marvel's The Avengers," "Iron Man 3" and "Toy Story 3." "Frozen" won Best Animated Feature Film at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and more and gave composer Robert Lopez an "EGOT" with an Oscar for "Let it Go."
"Son of God" actually beat "Non-Stop" on Thursday night, when both movies opened for evening screenings. Produced by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, "Son of God" was mostly derived from The History Channel mini-series, "The Bible." By the time Sunday estimates came in, "Son of God" had collected a better-than-expected $26.5 million. Of course, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" made more than that in its first day.
"The LEGO Movie" ended its reign atop the box office at #3 with $21 million, putting its domestic total past $200 million. George Clooney's most successful directorial effort, "The Monuments Men," was #4 with another $5 million for a $65.7 million total. Kevin Costner bomb "3 Days to Kill" rounded out the Top 5.
"American Hustle" was shutout at Sunday's awards show, but it beat the rest of the Best Picture nominees over the weekend (it's now made over $146 million). "Gravity" is by far the biggest of all of the nominees, with $270 million. The rest of the Best Picture nominees look like this: "The Wolf of Wall Street" ($114.5 million); "Captain Phillips" ($106m); "Philomena" ($34.6m); "Dallas Buyer's Club" ($25.3m); "Her" ($24.6 m) and "Nebraska" ($17.1m).
Best Picture winner "12 Years a Slave" has made $50 million domestically since it opened in limited release in October 2013.