Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson v Roma Downey: Derry and Ballymena movie stars go head to head in box office chart

By Amanda Ferguson

It's the lucrative battle of the American blockbusters – with the might of Ballymena taking on Londonderry.

On the influential Oscars weekend, two major movies have been fighting it out to top the US box office takings chart over the past few days.

In one corner was Liam Neeson's action film Non-Stop, while in the other, his fellow countrywoman Roma Downey was also raking in the millions with Son of God, which she produced and stars in.

By last night, it looked like Neeson's latest release had pulled in an estimated $30m (£18m) in ticket sales on its opening weekend to top the box office.

This impressive outing only narrowly edged Fox's Biblical drama Son of God, produced by Downey and husband Mark Burnett, into second place.

It was heading towards the $29m (£17.3m) mark for its first weekend of trade.

Estimates also predicted the hugely popular LEGO movie – which also stars Neeson – was ranking third in box office takings for America.

Movie website said the race between the two couldn't be closer.

"BoxOffice projects the film (Non-Stop) will total $30m for its opening weekend, a strong start for the Liam Neeson thriller," it said. "Meanwhile, Son of God is off to an impressive start itself."

The movies couldn't be any more different.

Downey, from the Bogside in Derry, plays Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in Son of God. Meanwhile, Ballymena's Neeson is in tough guy mode once again in Non-Stop. He plays an air marshal who springs into action during a transatlantic flight, after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk, unless the airline transfers $150m into an off-shore account.

According to Variety Magazine, the studio Universal has pitched Non-Stop to the public as a Neeson action-thriller along the lines of 2009's hugely successful Taken.

Meanwhile, Son of God has seen strong online ticket sales, according to both Fandango and, and Downey and Burnett are said to have campaigned aggressively for the project. Son of God has, however, received mixed reviews and it is not yet clear if it will be screened in the Middle East. The story chronicles the life of Jesus Christ, portrayed by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado. It was made using footage from Downey and Burnett's hit 10-hour television mini-series, The Bible.


Roma Downey: US-based Roma Downey (53), from the Bogside in Derry, is an actress and producer with an estimated wealth of more than $200m. In 1997, Roma was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. She is married to influential television producer Mark Burnett.

Liam Neeson: US-based actor Liam Neeson (61) is from Ballymena. He is best known for playing Michael Collins, Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars and former CIA operative Bryan Mills in Taken. His wife, Natasha Richardson, died in 2009 after a skiing accident in Montreal.

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