Box Office Report: 'Taken 2' Eyeing Strong $45 Million Opening or More

Taken 2 Liam Neeson Shooting Taxi - H 2012
20th Century Fox

Taken 2 Liam Neeson Shooting Taxi - H 2012

UPDATED: The sequel -- returning Liam Neeson in the role of Bryan Mills -- will easily win the weekend race after topping Friday with an estimated $17.3 million.

Action pic Taken 2 is off to a strong start at the domestic box office, where it's expected to top Friday with a gross in the $17 million range.

The sequel, starring Liam Neeson, could open to as much as $45.5 million for the weekend, a victory for 20th Century Fox and EuropaCorp, which partnered on the film.

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Results for the weekend's other two new films -- Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, from Disney, and Universal's musical comedy Pitch Perfect -- are harder to immediately call. Each could gross in the low- to mid-teens for the weekend, if not slightly more. Sony holdover Hotel Transylvania is likely to beat both in its second weekend.

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.

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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 black-and-white Halloween pic Frankenweenie -- a parody and homage to author Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- is a remake of the filmmaker's 1984 short film about a boy who brings his dog back to life with unintended consequences.

Pitch Perfect, which opened in limited release last weekend, stars Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. The film was co-financed by Universal and Paul Brooks' Gold Circle Films. Brooks produced alongside Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman.