Clapboard : Taken Snatches early box office lead

LOS ANGELES ~ Thriller Taken, starring Liam Neeson as a former spy working to rescue his kidnapped daughter, snatched its way to the top of the North American box office at the weekend, Exhibitor Relations said.

The feature by French director Pierre Morel secured US$24.7 million in nearly 3,200 theaters across the United States during its opening weekend, according to final figures released by the box office tracker.

Comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop was in second place after two consecutive weeks in the lead. The film, starring Kevin James as an overweight mall security guard who fights off a criminal gang, pocketed $13.9 million for an $83.2-million total since it opened in theaters.

Supernatural thriller The Uninvited, another fresh entry in theaters, scared up to third spot with $10.3 million. It came ahead of the family friendly Hotel for Dogs, which earned $8.6 million.

In fifth place was Clint Eastwood as a foul-mouthed Korean War veteran in Gran Torino, which raked in $8.2 million to bring its overall earnings to $110.2 million over eight weeks.

Mumbai-set Slumdog Millionaire, which has earned a whopping 10 Oscar nominations, came in sixth with $7.6 million. Director Danny Boyle received top honors from the Director’s Guild of America on Saturday, further notching the rags-to-riches movie’s frontrunner status at the February 22 Academy Awards ceremony.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the third episode of the  Underworld series, came in seventh at $7.6 million, followed by the new comedy New in Town, starring Renee Zellweger, at $6.7 million.

Blood-soaked My Bloody Valentine 3D  took in $4.5 million, falling to ninth, ahead of Inkheart, in which fictional characters come to life from the pages of books, which drew $3.7 million.

Overall ticket sales of $103 million for the top 12 films were down 20.5 percent from last weekend, as Sunday’s Super Bowl American football final grabbed sports fans’ attention.

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