Sony's sci-fi thriller "Looper," starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, fell from second-place to fourth with $12.2 million, lifting its domestic haul to $40.3 million.
Tim Burton's animated monster tale "Frankenweenie" had a slow start, taking in $11.5 million to round out the top-five. The Disney release is an update of Burton's 1984 live-action short film, about a boy who brings his dead dog back to life.
Released by 20th Century Fox, "Taken 2" gave a big boost to Hollywood revenues, which have lagged most weekends since late summer. Domestic business totaled $138 million, up 45.5 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Real Steel" led with $27.3 million.
While the first movie got respectable reviews, "Taken 2" was panned by critics as a replay of the original. Audiences rarely care what critics say, though.
"Most people go to the movies for a certain dose of escapism," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox. "It doesn't have to be high art. It doesn't have to be serious and contemplative. They go to the movies to be entertained, and my gosh, that's what this movie does."
"Frankenweenie" had a modest debut compared to Burton's last animated feature, "Corpse Bride," which took in $19.1 million in its first weekend of wide release in 2005. Both films were made through stop-motion animation, using puppets moved incrementally and photographed a frame at a time.
"Corpse Bride" had the advantage of Burton's superstar pal Johnny Depp leading the voice cast. And "Frankenweenie" was a tough sell both for its stop-motion style, which is far less popular than the computer-generated look of today's animation blockbusters, and for its black-and-white presentation, done in homage to classic monster movies.