and February are the dumping months for movies. Any film with award aspirations has been released during November and December to qualify for Oscar nominations, while tentpole pies hit screens during the blockbuster-making holiday season. Those first few weeks of the year are when movies that have gotten lousy scores in test screenings or have been gathering dust on studio shelves get their day, with the expectation that they’ll hang around theaters no longer than the popcorn sticking to the floor.
The box- office takes the deepest dive on Super Bowl weekend, so it was a Hail Mary pass when on Friday, January 30, 2009—two days before nearly 100 million Americans would watch the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals—20th Century, Fox released Taken. The action flick had a paltry budget of $25 million and a familiar revenge plot—former CIA agent Bryan Mills sets out to rescue his daughter when she’s kidnapped in Paris by a gang of sex traffickers. “That release date took guts,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a box- office analyst for Rentrak, a provider of viewership data. “It went against the grain. You only see romantic comedies aimed at a female audience at this time.” Even the movie’s star, a then 56-year- old Liam Neeson, had thought that the movie—what he describes as “very, very basic, simple storyline”—would stay under the radar.
By Shelley Event