March 2 (Bloomberg) -- “Non-Stop,” featuring Liam Neeson as a sky marshal battling a ransom-seeking terrorist in-flight, opened as the top-grossing film in U.S. and Canadian cinemas, toppling “The Lego Movie” from a three-weekend run as No. 1.
The thriller, from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, collected $30 million in weekend sales, Rentrak Corp. said today in an e-mailed statement. “Son of God,” retelling the story of Jesus, was the only other new film in wide release. It placed second with $26.5 million. “The Lego Movie,” from Warner Bros., took in $21 million to place third.
Neeson has demonstrated flair as an action hero since he starred as an ex-CIA agent rescuing his daughter in the January 2009 hit “Taken,” which took in $227 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. A 2012 sequel produced $376 million. Tonight’s live telecast of the 86th Academy Awards in Los Angeles may draw some fans away from theaters.
Neeson, 61, plays air marshal Bill Marks on a trans-Atlantic flight. He receives text messages demanding he instruct the airline to transfer $150 million into an offshore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes.
The picture co-stars Julianne Moore, along with Michelle Dockery from “Downton Abbey,” and Lupita Nyong’o, who is nominated for an Oscar for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
BoxOffice.com, another industry researcher, predicted weekend sales of $28.5 million for “Non-Stop.” The film cost about $50 million to produce, according to Box Office Mojo, and garnered a 58 percent favorable rating at RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates reviews from critics.
“Son of God,” distributed by 21st Century Fox Inc., brings to the big screen an epic from the team that created “The Bible” for cable TV’s History Channel, including the writers and producer Mark Burnett. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado plays Jesus as the film covers his birth, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection.
“Son of God” marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since “The Passion of the Christ” 10 years ago, according to the film’s website. That movie, from director Mel Gibson, generated $612 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
BoxOffice.com predicted $17.5 million in weekend sales. The film attracted favorable ratings of 22 percent from critics at Rottentomatoes.com, while 83 percent of fans like it.
Among returning films, “The Lego Movie,” in its fourth week, matched BoxOffice.com’s estimate for three-day sales of $21 million. The picture, based on the children’s building blocks, had taken in $285.2 million worldwide for Time Warner Inc.’s film studio as of Feb. 28, according to Box Office Mojo.
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