LOS ANGELES – Liam Neeson's CIA thriller "Taken" bumped off "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" at the weekend box office, raking in $24.6 million and helping fuel the first $1 billion January in Hollywood history.
North American box office revenues were up nearly 20 percent in January over the same period last year, reaching a record $1.03 billion for the month. Attendance was up 16 percent over last year, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media by Numbers.
"This is exactly how you want to start a year," Dergarabedian said Sunday. "I think people feel movies are a good value for their dollar. Going to a movie is a habit people aren't willing to break."
"Taken" follows Neeson as a former CIA operative trying to track down a group of kidnappers who want to sell his daughter into the sex slave trade.
"We are thrilled. It's an all-audience movie," said 20th Century Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. "When people come out they are going to talk about it. I think it's going to play for a long time."
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop," the Kevin James comedy about a clumsy security guard, had been No. 1 the previous two weeks. Although it dropped to second place, it earned $14 million to boost its three-week total to more than $83 million.
Also opening this weekend was "The Uninvited," a remake of the 2003 South Korean thriller that pits two sisters against their potentially evil stepmother. It earned $10.5 million for third place.
In fourth was "Hotel for Dogs" with $8.7 million, followed by "Gran Torino" with $8.6 million.
"Gran Torino," directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as a bigot who becomes a reluctant neighborhood hero, has now earned more than $110 million, making it Eastwood's highest grossing film.
It surpassed "In the Line of Fire," which starred Eastwood and made $102 million, and "Unforgiven," directed and starring Eastwood, which earned $101 million. "Unforgiven" won Oscars in 1992 for best picture and best director.
"Slumdog Millionaire," which continues to collect honors this awards season, was sixth with $7.7 million, bringing its total to more than $67 million in 12 weeks, as it moves into wider release across the U.S.
Its director, Danny Boyle, won the top honor Saturday night from the Directors Guild of America.
The awards are "adding to the prestige of the film in the marketplace and making it more important for the public to see," said Richard Shamban, vice president of theatrical distribution for "Slumdog Millionaire's distributor, Fox Searchlight.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Taken," $24.6 million.
2. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," $14 million.
3. "The Uninvited," $10.5 million.
4. "Hotel for Dogs," $8.7 million.
5. "Grand Torino," $8.6 million.
6. "Slumdog Millionaire," $7.7 million.
7. "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," $7.2 million.
8. "New in Town," $6.7 million.
9. "My Bloody Valentine 3-D," $4.3 million.
10. "Inkheart," $3.7 million.