Box Office: ‘Taken 3’ has a certain set of skills to claim no. 1 on Friday

There has only one time over the past 24 days when “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” didn't rule the land as the no. 1 movie in America. That was on Dec. 25 when “Unbroken” and “Into the Woods” knocked it down to the third spot, but only for one day.  That all changed on Friday with the arrival of “Taken 3.”

The third installment in the franchise that arguably made Liam Neeson a household name grossed $14.7 million Friday for what should be a $35 – 37 million weekend.  That would be significantly lower than the $49.8 million “Taken 2” earned in Feb. 2013, but still more than the $24.7 million the first “Taken” opened to in January, 2009.  Directed once a gain by Oliver Megaton, “Taken 3” has earned the worst reviews of the series with just a 26 on Metacritic and a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Still, with the four-day MLK weekend upcoming the film should easily find its way to $100 million plus domestic.

Debuting in second place was Ava DuVernay's critically acclaimed drama “Selma.” Jumping to 2,179 theaters, the Paramount Pictures release pulled in a somewhat disappointing $3.8 million for what should be a $10-11 million three-day gross. Like “Taken 3,” the filmmakers beyond this potential Oscar contender will look for a kickstart with the  Martin Luther King Day holiday.

“Unbroken” continued it's spectacular run with another $2.6 million and $95.8 million so far.  The Angelina Jolie drama should pass the $100 million mark sometime on Sunday.

Peter Jackson's previously mentioned “Hobbit” finale earned another $2.46 million for an impressive $229 million.  The Warner Bros. and MGM release has made a massive $746.9 million worldwide so far.

“Into the Woods” dropped to fifth with $2.45 million on Friday and $97.9  million to date. It should hit the $100 million mark today.  Moreover, even without significant Oscar nominations next week “Woods” should still outgross another recent holiday movie musical, “Les Miserables,” by early February.

Expanding to just 645 theaters was Paul Thomas Anderson's “Inherent Vice.” For the most part critics have raved about Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's trippy novel, but audiences have had a mixed response.  “Vice” earned $960,00 on Friday for what is expected to be a $3.1-3.2 million frame. Since opening last month in limited release “Vice” has now made $2.5 million overall. Without significant Oscar nods this Thursday “Vice” may have a hard time matching the box office of Anderson's last flick, “The Master,” which ended up with $16.3 million when all was said and done.  

Look for final weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFIx.