'The Grey' Box Office Weekend Thriller Tops All

The Alaskan-set thriller "The Grey" has swept the box office with its opening weekend earnings of $20 million.

Studio estimates arrived Sunday and the film's success transcended expectations for its opening weekend.

Released Friday, the film sees an unruly group of rough and tough oil-rig workers stranded in a desolate, frigid wilderness after their plane crashes. The survivors ward off starvation, injury, and merciless weather when a vicious pack of wolves start hunting them.

The drama action stars Liam Neeson of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" as well as Dermot Mulroney, Joe Anderson, and Frank Grillo.

Neeson has appeared in several successful thrillers such as "Unknown" and "Taken." The 59-year-old actor's name has become synonymous with action-packed movies.

"The Grey" is the second film by the distributor Open Road Films LLC, which is the result of a partnership between AMC Entertainment Inc. and Regal Entertainment Group.

Tim Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road, told NBC that Neeson "is a true movie star, period."

Explaining the film's weekend success, Ortenberg continued, "My guess is that Liam Neeson in action thriller would work just about any time of year."

The weekend's other premiere thrillers included "Man on a Ledge" and "One For the Money," both of which did not fare as well as "The Grey" in the box office. Combined, the films earned roughly $20.1 million, and both experimented with social coupons such as LivingSocial and Groupon.

The third installment to the vampire franchise "Underworld: Awakening" and the historical adventure "Red Tails" rounded out the weekend's top five grossing films, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Previously released film "The Descendants" starring George Clooney saw bolstered ticket sales after Oscar nominations last week. "The Artist" which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards is now available in nearly 300 additional theaters, but has only earned $16.7 million.