Box office: Liam Neeson's 'Taken 3' launches with $1.6 million

Liam Neeson delivered an early box-office punch Thursday night. 

The action star's "Taken 3" grossed $1.6 million from pre-weekend evening showings at about 2,500 locations. That's slightly better than the $1.5 million "Taken 2" snatched on its Thursday evening launch in 2012. 

Going into the weekend, box-office analysts said the trilogy's finale should pull in up to $30 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday. The previous installment opened with nearly $50 million from its first three days and went on to gross a total of $140 million domestically. 

Looking at a comparable weekend, last year's hit "Lone Survivor" took off with $1.7 million from its Thursday night wide debut on Jan. 9. The Universal Pictures war drama starring Mark Wahlberg scored about $40 million from its first weekend in wide release, after developing positive word of mouth from a limited run that started Christmas Day. 

"Taken 3," which cost about $48 million to make, was financed by French writer-producer Luc Besson's EuropaCorp and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

It is expected to knock the third and final "Hobbit" movie from the top of the box-office charts, ending its three-week lock on the No. 1 spot.

The Martin Luther King Jr. drama "Selma" is likely to land in second place. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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