Box Office Preview: Liam Neeson's 'Taken 2' Should Lead Another Strong Weekend

Liam Neeson Taken 2 Film Still - H 2012

Liam Neeson Taken 2 Film Still - H 2012

UPDATED: Tim Burton's pre-Halloween pic "Frankenweenie" also opens, while musical comedy "Pitch Perfect" expands nationwide; new specialty offerings include political satire "Butter" and Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy."

The domestic box-office recovery is expected to continue this weekend, led by 20th Century Fox and EuropaCorp's action pic Taken 2, which returns Liam Neeson in the lead role.

Tracking suggests the sequel will open in the $35 million range, though more bullish observers believe it could cross $40 million. Tracking is strong among all quadrants, led by younger males.

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Taken 2 is generating solid presale business, though Fandango reports that the big advance seller is Summit Entertainment's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. The final Twilight pic, which opens Nov. 16, represents more than 40 percent of advance sales this week on Fandango. On its first day alone -- Monday -- the pic generated more than $1.17 million in sales.

Taken 2 opens almost two years after Taken transformed into a sleeper box-office hit, revitalizing Neeson's career and grossing $226.8 million worldwide after opening domestically to $24.7 million in early January 2009.

Taken 2 also returns Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen as the daughter and ex-wife of Neeson's character, Bryan Mills. This time out, the story is set in Istanbul, where Janssen's character is kidnapped and the daughter goes on the run. Luc Besson reteamed with Robert Mark Kamen to write the script, while Olivier Megaton replaces Pierre Morel in the director's chair.

Fox -- which only distributed Taken -- made Taken 2 with Besson's EuropaCorp and also has worldwide rights. The sequel opens day-and-date in more than 25 markets.

Tim Burton's Halloween pic Frankenweenie -- a parody and homage to author Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- also opens Friday. The Disney pic, a passion project for Burton, is expected to open in the $15 million range or better and cost $39 million to produce.

The black-and-white, stop-motion animated pic is remake of the filmmaker's 1984 short film about a boy who brings his dog back to life with unintended consequences.

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Frankenweenie will have to compete with holdover Hotel Transylvania -- featuring Dracula as the owner of a hotel for monsters -- for family attention. Transylvania, another victory for Sony Pictures Animation, shattered a number of records in its opening last weekend and had grossed north of $48 million through Wednesday.

Expanding nationwide Friday is Universal's musical comedy Pitch Perfect, which generated strong returns last weekend as it opened in a handful of theaters. On Friday, it will be playing in more than 2,700 locations (Taken and Frankenweenie will be playing in upward of 3,000).

Pitch Perfect grossed north of $5.1 million from five theaters in its debut for a stellar per-screen average of $15,560. The pic received an A CinemaScore, portending good word-of-mouth.

The $17 million film, whose cast includes Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow, was co-financed by Universal and Paul Brooks' Gold Circle Films. Brooks produced alongside Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman.

Pitch Perfect begins its international rollout this weekend in New Zealand.

New specialty offerings include Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, which premiered in Cannes and features a high-profile cast that includes Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey. Produced by Nu Image/Millennium and distributed by Millennium Entertainment, The Paperboy opens in 11 theaters.

Political satire Butter, starring Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman, opens in 75 theaters in top markets. The film, from The Weinstein Co./Radius, has been playing on cable VOD for several weeks.