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Neeson’s `Unknown’ wins weekend with $21.8M debut

Premiere Of Warner Bros. "Unknown" - Arrivals
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Liam Neeson has proven himself a known quantity again at the box office.

Neeson’s thriller, “Unknown,” debuted as the No. 1 movie with $21.8 million, following in the footsteps of his 2009 action hit “Taken,” according to studio estimates Sunday.

Another action tale, “I Am Number Four,” opened at No. 2 with $19.5 million.

A Warner Bros. release, “Unknown” stars Neeson as a botanist who awakens from a coma to find his wife claims she does not know him and that another man has taken his identity.

DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four” stars Alex Pettyfer as a teenage alien refugee on Earth who develops superpowers to battle the evil invaders that destroyed his planet. It was the first DreamWorks movie released under the company’s distribution deal with Disney.

While “I Am Number Four” held youth appeal, “Unknown” was a rare No. 1 film that did most of its business among older crowds. According to Warner, 54 percent of the movie’s audience was 50 and over and 89 percent was 25 and over.

The 58-year-old Neeson has had action roles before but found unexpected success as an all-out action hero with “Taken,” a $100 million hit.

“He’s the new man. He’s stepped up to the plate. Put him in the right role and he’s every man’s action star,” said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner.

Two movies that opened the previous weekend held the next two spots in the top 10.

Disney’s animated comedy, “Gnomeo & Juliet,” was No. 3 with $19.4 million, finishing so closely to “I Am Number Four” that the two movies could change rankings when studios release final numbers Tuesday, after the long President’s Day weekend. “Gnomeo & Juliet” raised its total to $50.4 million.

Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s romance “Just Go With It,” which had been No. 1 the previous weekend, fell to fourth place with $18.2 million. The Sony release lifted its total to $60.8 million.

The weekend’s other new wide release, Martin Lawrence’s comedy, “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” was No. 5 with $17 million. The 20th Century Fox sequel has Lawrence reprising his role as a federal agent who goes undercover as a hefty woman to crack a case.

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