January 2009 will be remembered for its surprising box office stars.  A 78-year-old Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino," Kevin James in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and now, Liam Neeson in "Taken."

Dominating the Friday box office, Neeson's super-dad thriller brought in an eye-popping $9.5 million. Directed by "District 13's" Pierre Morel and produced by Luc Besson, "Taken" received better reviews than the other new movies this weekend and was driven by some well crafted TV spots ("O.K., the next part is very important. They are going to take you.") that no doubt made television audiences snap at attention.  Because the picture's opening weekend has been driven by older males, "Taken" will have a larger than expected drop off because of Sunday's Super Bowl, but should still rake in anywhere between $21-24 million for the frame, a personal best for Neeson as the sole lead.  Having already grossed $68 million outside the U.S., it's surprising Fox didn't have more faith in this commercial player.

Coming in second was the Paramount/DreamWorks dump "The Uninvited." The Elizabeth Banks horror tale brought in around $4.5 million and should finish anywhere between $10-11 million for the weekend and find some sort of audience on DVD or cable.

The weekend's other new entry, "New in Town," opened disastrously to only $2.5 million.  The Renee Zellweger romantic comedy is already one of the worst reviewed pictures of the year and its clear audiences could smell the stink a mile away.  This isn't good news for Zellweger who needed a career boost after a string of disappointing releases. Tellingly, at the moment she has no other studio films on her upcoming slate. 

Here's Friday's complete top ten according to Box Office Mojo:

1. "Taken," $9.5 million
2. "The Uninvited," $4.3 million
3. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," $4.15 million, $73.5 million to date
4. "Gran Torino," $2.6 million, $104.5 million to date
5. "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," $2.5 million, $28.1 million to date
6. "New in Town," $2.4 million
7. "Slumdog Millionaire," $2.3 million, $61.8 million to date
8. "Hotel for Dogs," $2 million, $41.5 million
9. "My Bloody Valentine 3-D," $1.5 million, $41.8 million
10. "Bride Wars," $1.2 million, $51.5 million to date

Look for complete weekend box office results on Sunday.