By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
Critics don’t like “Taken 2,” but Liam Neeson’s action sequel has proved twice the hit among fans as the original movie was.
In “Taken 2,” Neeson returns as a retired CIA agent using his expert espionage and killing skills to take on a gang of thugs out for revenge against him and his family.
The previous weekend’s No. 1 movie at the U.S. box office, Adam Sandler’s animated hit “Hotel Transylvania,” dropped to second-place with $26.3 million. The Sony release raised its domestic total to $76 million, and it has taken in $29.3 million overseas for a worldwide haul of $105.3 million.
Expanding into nationwide release after a limited debut a week earlier, Universal’s music tale “Pitch Perfect” moved up to third-place with $14.7 million. The movie stars Anna Kendrick as a college freshman spicing things up for her a cappella singing squad.
Sony’s sci-fi thriller “Looper,” starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, fell from second-place to fourth with $12.2 million, lifting its domestic haul to $40.3 million.
Tim Burton’s animated monster tale “Frankenweenie” had a slow start, taking in $11.5 million to round out the top-five. The Disney release is an update of Burton’s 1984 live-action short film, about a boy who brings his dead dog back to life.
Released by 20th Century Fox, “Taken 2″ gave a big boost to Hollywood revenues, which have lagged most weekends since late summer. Domestic business totaled $138 million, up 45.5 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Real Steel” led with $27.3 million.
While the first movie got respectable reviews, “Taken 2″ was panned by critics as a replay of the original. Audiences rarely care what critics say, though.
But with a budget of $39 million, “Frankenweenie” cost far less to produce than computer-animated films, whose price-tags can run to $150 million or more.
Disney is counting on good reviews and positive audience reaction to keep “Frankenweenie” afloat through Halloween and beyond.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Taken 2,” $50 million ($55 million international).
2. “Hotel Transylvania,” $26.3 million ($13.1 million international).
3. “Pitch Perfect,” $14.7 million.
4. “Looper,” $12.2 million.
5. “Frankenweenie,” $11.5 million.
6. “End of Watch,” $4 million.
7. “Trouble with the Curve,” $3.9 million.
8. “House at the End of the Street,” $3.7 million.
9. “The Master,” $1.8 million.
10. “Finding Nemo,” $1.6 million ($600,000 international).
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.