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Taken 2, Liam Neeson

Twentieth Century Fox

The legend of Liam Neeson's action career grows.

Neeson's Taken 2 blew up at the weekend box office with an estimated $50 million, the third-largest debut ever for an October release, and probably the all-time best start for a revenge film with a leading man of a certain age.

(Hint: Neeson's 60.)

Taken 2 doubled the bow of the original Taken, the 2009 hit that kicked Neeson to the head of the kick-ass genre.

The sequel's start is the third-biggest opener for Neeson, behind only the mega-spectacles of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phanton Menace and 2010's Clash of the Titans.

The only October films to bow bigger were Paranormal Activity 3 and Jackass 3-D.

Overseas, where Taken 2 opened in some countries last week, the movie took in another $55 million, upping its worldwide total to $117 million. 

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, the other major new release, looked only half-alive with a fifth-place, $11.5 million debut. (Halloween holdover Hotel Transylvania, by comparison, took in $26.3 million.) One saving grace for Frankenweenie: The dead-dog tale reportedly was made for an animation-cheap $39 million.

The R-rated antics of Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron were good for a solid, but not-sensational start for The Paperboy, which grossed $110,033 at 11 theaters, but saw per-screen-average bragging rights go to Taken 2

Elsewhere, Pitch Perfect went wide, and grossed $14.7 million. To date, the $17 million comedy has grossed $21.6 million domestically.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's and Viola Davis' Won't Back Down ($1 million; $4.5 million overall domestically) made a quick exit from the Top 10—and that can't help whatever Oscar chances the film had, or rather, had left.

On the plus side, the charter-school drama has become the Oogieloves of charter-school dramas—it reigns as the worst-ever opening film on more than 2,500 screens; the summer's Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure holds the distinction as the worst-ever opening film on up to 2,500 screens.

Sorry, there's not really a plus side here, is there?

Overall, it was another rebound weekend for Hollywood. According to Exhibitor Relations, ticket sales for the top movies were up a whopping 55 percent when compared to the same weekend last year.

Here's a complete look at the weekend's top movies, per Friday-Sunday domestic estimates as reported by the studios and Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Taken 2, $50 million
  2. Hotel Transylvania, $26.3 million
  3. Pitch Perfect, $14.7 million
  4. Looper, $12.2 million
  5. End of Watch, $4 million
  6. Trouble With the Curve, $3.9 million
  7. Frankenweenie, $11.5 million
  8. House at the End of the Street, $3.7 million
  9. The Master, $1.8 million
  10. Finding Nemo, $1.6 million