Liam Neeson returned to the top of the North American box office thanks to an estimated $40.4m debut in 3,594 sites via Fox, while Selma expanded wide through Paramount and soared 22 places to number two on a $11.2m weekend haul.

This was the second best debut of the EuropaCorp-Fox action franchise behind Taken 2’s $49.5m set in October 2012 – which rises to $50.91m when adjusted for inflation.

Taken debuted on $24.7m in January 2009 – which translates to $27.19m in today’s prices – and its $145m final tally – an inflation-adjusted $159.61m - remains the one to beat.

In its third session the Civil Rights Era drama Selma starring David Oyelowo’s expanded from 22 to 2,179 theatres and boosted the early tally by $11.2m to $13.5m.

Overall the top 12 dropped 16.1% on last weekend and fell 7.9% on the comparable session in 2014, when Lone Survivor expanded wide in its third session to claim top berth.

Both Disney’s Into The Woods and Universal’s Unbroken crossed $100m in their third weekend. The former ranks third on $9.8m for $105.3m and the latter sits in fifth place on $8.4m for $101.6m.

New Line-MGM’s The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies slipped three places to number four in its fourth weekend, adding $9.4m for $236.5m and $781.8m worldwide.

The Imitation Game ranks sixth on $40.8m after seven weekends through The Weinstein Company. Relativity Media’s The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death fell five slots to ninth on $4.8m for $22.3m.

Warner Bros expanded Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice adaptation wide from 16 to 645 sites in its fifth session as the trippy noir took $2.9m for $4.5m.

Focus Features’ Stephen Hawking drama The Theory Of Everything added $675,000 from 408 venues for $25.9m after ten sessions, while American Sniper delivered another huge average as $555,000 from four sites raised the tally to $3.2m.

Warner Bros is keeping the war film starring Bradley Cooper in a deliberately limited footprint and is counting on Oscar nominations later this week before expanding wide. The film is not nominated for Golden Globes tonight.

Counterpoint Films and Self-Realization Fellowship’s documentary Awake: The Life Of Yogananda distributed via Abramorama ha crossed $1m in theatres and theatrical-on-demand via Gathr.

The Interview plays in 492 locations through Columbia Pictures and took an additional $388,000 this weekend to raise the tally to $5.7m.

This week’s wide releases are the Michael Mann cyber thriller Blackhat starring Chris Hemsworth via Universal; StudioCanal’s international family smash Paddington through TWC; and Sony/Screen Gems’ comedy The Wedding Ringer.

Confirmed top 10 North America Jan 9-11, 2015
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Taken 3 (Fox) Fox International $40.4m –

2 (24) Selma (Paramount) Pathé $11.2m $13.5m

3 (2) Into The Woods (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $9.8m $105.3m

4 (1) The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (New Line-MGM) Warner Bros Pictures International $9.4m $236.5m

5 (3) Unbroken (Universal) Universal Pictures International $8.4m $101.6m

6 (7) The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) FilmNation $7.6m $40.8m

7 (5) Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (Fox) Fox International $6.7m $99.5m

8 (6) Annie (Columbia Pictures) Sony Pictures Releasing International $4.9m $79.4m

9 (4) The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death (Relativity Media) Bloom $4.8m $22.3m

10 (8) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $3.8m $329.5m