January is the month when awards contenders jostle for attention at cinemas, but none of the Oscar-bait films posed much threat to grizzled action star Liam Neeson. Taken 3 wiped the floor with the competition, grossing £6.71m, including previews of £926,000. Audiences paid no attention to critics – the ones tracked by MetaCritic awarded the film a poor 26/100 rating – rallying to a franchise that has not strayed far from its original winning formula.
Taken 2 – which earned a warmer 45/100 score at MetaCritic – debuted in October 2012 with a slightly stronger £7.38m, including £1.19m in previews. Since the Taken concept relies on calamities befalling the family of retired CIA operative Bryan Mills, it’s not an obvious premise to yield sequels, and Neeson assures us that no more are planned. In the current film, Mills goes on the run after being framed for the murder of a family member.
Taken 3 faced no competition for the action audience. From Friday, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, should pull adult males, although it’s an altogether more serious affair, based on the memoir of an Iraq war combatant.
Two films – both straddling the multiplex-specialised divide – fought for second place, ending up less than £15,000 apart for the weekend. The Theory of Everything had the best of the early running on Friday, but Into the Woods surged on Saturday and Sunday, finally overtaking the Stephen Hawking film by a whisker. Woods ended on £2.48m, and Theory on £2.46m. Of course, it’s worth remembering that this was the second session of play for Theory – the film had already grossed £5.48m going into the weekend.