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UPDATE 1-Thriller 'Taken 2' grabs movie box office crown

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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Liam Neeson thriller "Taken2" captured the No. 1 spot on movie box office charts over theweekend with a brawny $50 million take from theaters in theUnited States and Canada.

"Taken 2" stars Neeson as a former CIA agent kidnappedduring a vacation in Istanbul. The movie added $55 million fromsome 50 international markets for a global opening of $117million including Korea where it opened earlier, distributor20th Century Fox said.

The strong debut for "Taken 2" pushed last weekend's winner,family flick "Hotel Transylvania," to second place. The movieabout a hotel run by Dracula earned $26.3 million from Fridaythrough Sunday, according to studio estimates compiled byReuters. Comedy "Pitch Perfect" snagged the No. 3 slot with$14.7 million.

North American (U.S. and Canadian) sales for "Taken 2" weremore than double t he original film's, which opened in January2009 with $24.7 million and ultimately grossed a surprising $227million around the world. The movie lifted Neeson to the ranksof Hollywood action stars, leading to roles in movies such as"Clash of the Titans" and "The Grey."

"This so exceeded our expectations going in," said ChrisAronson, executive vice president of domestic distribution at20th Century Fox, noting that Fox had anticipated something "inthe mid-30s range" after what he called a "sluggish market"since the summer.

"The come in at $50 million is really remarkable, and atestament to this character that Liam has created," Aronson toldReuters.

The executive noted that the audience was almost evenlysplit male-female, and also played strongly across age groups,with more than half over the age of 25.

Fox co-financed the film with Europa Corp, the company runby "Taken" writer and director Luc Besson, and contributed $36million to its budget, Aronson said. Reports have put the totalbudget at about $50 million.

"Hotel Transylvania" won the weekend battle forpre-Halloween family filmgoers, leaving new Walt Disney Co

movie "Frankenweenie" in fifth place. Through twoweekends, "Transylvania" has grossed $76 million in the domesticmarket.

"Pitch Perfect," about a college all-girls singing groupmoved up the charts as it expanded nationwide following animpressive limited opening last weekend. The movie stars AnnaKendrick and Brittany Snow.

"There's a lot to be said about this little engine thatcould," said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution forUniversal, a unit of Comcast Corp , noting that thefilm only cost $17 million.

"It's on the road to very nice profitability for Universal,"she said, adding that the studio expected "word of mouth, whichwe know is great" would help the film develop legs beyond itscore, targeted audience, which, Rocco said, "loves it."

Rounding out the charts, time-travel movie "Looper" earnedfourth place with $12.2 million domestically. Sales for themovie starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reached$40.3 million for the two-week run.

Disney's "Frankenweenie" grossed $11.5 million at domestictheaters. The black-and-white stop-motion film directed by TimBurton tells the story of a boy who brings his beloved dog backto life using Frankenstein-like science. The movie cost $39million to produce.

News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio distributed"Taken 2." Sony Corp's film studio released "Hotel Transylvania"and "Looper." "Pitch Perfect" was distributed by UniversalPictures, a unit of Comcast Corp .

(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by DoinaChiacu)

((lisa.richwine@thomsonreuters.com)(1 213 955 6776)(Follow meon Twitter @LARichwine))

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