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Neeson’s ‘The Grey’ tops box office with $20M
NEW YORK (AP) - Beware the Liam in Winter. Liam Neeson’s “The Grey” topped the weekend box office with $20 million, according to studio estimates Sunday, continuing the actor’s success as an action star in the winter months.
The Alaskan survivalist thriller opened above expectations with a performance on par with previous Neeson thrillers “Taken” and “Unknown.” Those films, both January-February releases, opened with $24.7 million and $21.9 million, respectively.
But the R-rated “The Grey,” which has received good reviews, drove home the strong appeal of Neeson, action star. It’s an unlikely turn for the 59-year-old Neeson, previously better known for his dramatic performances, like those in “Schindler’s List” and “Kinsey.”
“My guess is that Liam Neeson in action thrillers would work just about any time of year.”
January is often a dumping ground for less-stellar releases, a tradition held up by two badly reviewed new wide releases: “Man on a Ledge,” with Sam Worthington, and “One for the Money” with Katherine Heigl.
“One for the Money” fared better, earning $11.8 million, while “Man on a Ledge” opened with $8.3 million.
Those were reasonably solid returns, and, in an unusual twist, were both ultimately for Lions Gate Entertainment. Its film studio, Lionsgate, released the romantic comedy “One for the Money.” The action thriller “Man on a Ledge” was released by Summit Entertainment, which Lions Gate bought for $412.5 million earlier this month.
“One for the Money” was helped by a promotion with Groupon, the Internet discount site, with which Lionsgate previously partnered for “The Lincoln Lawyer.” David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate, said the large number of older, female subscribers of Groupon matched well with the audience of “One for the Money.”
Groupon email blasts, he said, had a significant promotional effect.
Last week’s box-office leader, “Underworld: Awakenings,” Sony’s Screen Gem’s latest installment in its vampire series, came in second with $12.5 million, bringing its cumulative total to $45.1 million.
The unexpectedly large haul for “The Grey,” strong holdovers (such as the George Lucas-produced World War II action film “Red Tails,” which earned $10.4 million in its second week) and the bump for Oscar contending films following Tuesday’s nominations added up to a good weekend for Hollywood. The box office was up about 15 percent on the corresponding weekend last year.
So far, every weekend this year has been an “up” weekend, after a somewhat dismal fourth quarter in 2011.
“`Mission: Impossible,’ I think, really helped reinvigorate the marketplace, and that’s carried over into the first part of the year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “That’s good news for Hollywood after the down-trending box office of 2011.”
Oscar favorites “The Descendants,” “Hugo” and “The Artist” sought to capitalize on their recent Academy Awards nominations. Each expanded to more theaters and saw an uptick in business.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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