March 3 (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 $28.9 million in weekend sales, Rentrak Corp. today said 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 $25.6 million. “The Lego Movie,” from Warner Bros., took in $20.8 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 “has rebranded himself as the thinking man’s action hero, so he’s filled a void left by Harrison Ford from many years back,” Gitesh Pandya, chief executive officer at Boxofficeguru.com, said in a telephone interview. “There’s definitely a demand for that.”
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, almost matched BoxOffice.com’s estimate for three-day sales of $21 million. The picture, based on the children’s building blocks, has produced $330 million worldwide for Time Warner Inc.’s film unit, according to Box Office Mojo.
“3 Days to Kill,” featuring Kevin Costner, fell to fourth place from second with sales of $5 million for the independent studio Relativity Media LLC.
Costner plays an international spy, Ethan Renner, who is giving up his life of intrigue to build a closer relationship with his estranged daughter.
“Monuments Men,” directed by and starring George Clooney, moved stayed at fifth, with $4.9 million of sales for Sony Corp. this weekend, according to Rentrak Corp.
Also starring Matt Damon and Bill Murray, the film is based on the true story of a World War II platoon comprised of museum directors and curators that rescued art trapped behind enemy lines.
Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 19 percent to $104.1 million from a year earlier, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $1.68 billion, up 9.7 percent from a year earlier.
The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Feb. 28 to March 2.
Rev. Pct. Avg./ Total Movie (mln) Chg. Theaters Theater (mln) Wks ================================================================ 1 Non-Stop $28.9 -- 3,090 $9,345 $28.9 1 2 Son Of God 25.6 -- 3,260 7,853 25.6 1 3 Lego Movie, The 20.8 -33 3,770 5,525 209.1 4 4 3 Days To Kill 5.0 -60 2,872 1,724 20.8 2 5 Monuments Men 4.9 -38 3,002 1,646 65.6 4 6 RoboCop 4.5 -54 2,885 1,563 51.2 3 7 Pompeii 4.3 -58 2,658 1,630 17.8 2 8 Frozen 3.6 -18 1,746 2,080 388.8 15 9 About Last Night 3.4 -55 1,804 1,875 43.7 3 10 Ride Along 3.0 -34 1,869 1,625 127.2 7 Top 10 Films Grosses This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $104.1 $87.8 +19 Year-to-date Revenue 2014 2013 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $1,677 $1,528 9.7 Source: Rentrak Corp.
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