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Neeson action thriller takes number one spot at box office

neeson non stop ap.jpg

Liam Neeson in a scene from "Non-Stop."The Associated Press

Universal’s Liam Neeson-starrer “Non-Stop” looks to be unstoppable this Oscar weekend reports Variety.com.

With an expected $30 million weekend bow, the action-thriller is on track to crumble Warner Bros.-Village Roadshow’s “The Lego Movie.” Neeson is up against himself at the box office as he voiced Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop in “Lego.”

Aside from breaking the toon’s three-week winning streak, the pic is also stopping Fox’s “Son of God” in its tracks. “Non-Stop” took $10 million Friday, while “Son of God” secured $9.4 million, putting it on track for $25 million. “Lego,” on the other hand, earned $4.4 million (down about 39%). This will likely raise its total domestic box office to $192.7 million.

The win, which exceeds already high expectations, further solidifies Neeson’s status as a bona fide box office draw. “Non-Stop” (budgeted at $50 million) flew above the box office gross of “Taken,” the film that reinvigorated his action career. The first movie made $24 million in 2009 over Super Bowl weekend and went on to gross $145 million domestically. Its sequel opened to more than double that amount, $49 million, in 2012, but finished with a bit less Stateside at $140 million.

However, “Non-Stop” — produced and financed by StudioCanal and Joel Silver — is not flying in friendly skies; “Son of God” is hot on its trail. Christopher Spencer’s look at the life of Jesus could be looking at near-eternal life in the coming weeks as church groups and other religious institutions are buying tickets in bulk to organize group outings and theater take-overs. In fact, Colorado’s Compassion International bought tickets for churches in 40 cities across the nation. This trend could rise next month leading up to Easter Sunday on April 20.

The faith-based pic opened to a joyful $1.2 million Thursday night, overtaking “Non-Stop”s $720,000. Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have aggressively promoted the project, which is based on their five-part miniseries “The Bible.” The show was ratings gold for the History Channel last March.

In their second weekend, Relativity’s “3 Days to Kill” and Sony’s “Pompeii” are expected to fall behind another Sony pic, “Monuments Men.” “3 Days” will likely gross $4.8 million by Sunday, which would bring its total to $20.6 million, while “Pompeii” could reel in $3.9. “Monuments” is inching past both, en route to nabbing fourth place with $5 million.

While “3 Days” seems to be locked in at fifth, Sony-MGM’s “RoboCop” will likely beat out “Pompeii” for the sixth slot. “About Last Night,” “Ride Along” and “Frozen” should round out the top 10.

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