NEW YORK -- Beware the Liam in Winter.
Liam Neeson's "The Grey" topped the weekend box office with $20 million, according to studio estimates Sunday, continuing the actor's success as an action star in the winter months.
The Alaskan survivalist thriller opened above expectations with a performance on par with previous Neeson thrillers "Taken" and "Unknown." Those films, both January-February releases, opened with $24.7 million and $21.9 million, respectively.
But the R-rated "The Grey," which has received good reviews, drove home the strong appeal of Neeson, action star. It's an unlikely turn for Neeson, 59, previously better-known for his dramatic performances, like those in "Schindler's List" and "Kinsey."
"Liam is a true movie star, period," said Tom Ortenberg, chief executive of Open Road Films. It's the second release for the newly formed distributor, created by theater chains AMC and Regal.
"My guess is that Liam Neeson in action thrillers would work just about any time of year."
January is often a dumping ground for less-stellar releases, a tradition held up by two badly reviewed new wide releases: "Man on a Ledge" with Sam Worthington and "One for the Money" with Katherine Heigl.
"One for the Money" fared better, earning $11.8 million, while "Man on a Ledge" opened with $8.3 million.
"One for the Money" was helped by a promotion with Groupon, the Internet discount site, with which its film studio, Lionsgate, previously partnered for "The Lincoln Lawyer." David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate, said the large number of older, female subscribers of Groupon matched well with the audience of "One for the Money."
Last week's box-office leader, "Underworld: Awakenings," Sony's Screen Gems' latest installment in its vampire series, came in second with $12.5 million, bringing its cumulative total to $45.1 million.