Four new theatrical releases all opened higher than $20 million this past weekend at the North American box office, a record for a non-holiday weekend and complete surprise to everyone involved. Sony’s romantic drama The Vow narrowly beat out Universal’s R-rated action flick Safe House for the number one spot, while New Line’s Journey 2: the Mysterious Island opened nicely in third and Fox’s 3D reissue of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace used The Force to land in fourth place.
Two years ago, Sony’s Screen Gems division took advantage of the quiet Super Bowl weekend to release a romantic tearjerker starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried called Dear John. In selling it directly to a female audience who could care less about a football game, the studio scored a cinematic touchdown. The result was a $30 million opening weekend en route to an $80 million final domestic haul.
This weekend, Sony took advantage of the Valentine’s Day holiday to release another romantic flick starring Tatum (this time with Rachel McAdams), The Vow. Apparently, lightning strikes twice because Tatum’s latest weepie earned a lovely $41.7 million from 2,958 theaters. As was the case with Dear John, critics eviscerated The Vow (27% approval on Rotten Tomatoes). And just like John, female and date night ticket buyers could care less about what the scribes had to say. With such a big opening, The Vow might make its way to the $100 million mark.
The Vow wasn’t the only film that came out of the gate with guns blazing. The Denzel Washington action thriller Safe House arrived on 3,119 screens and delivered Universal Pictures another smash opening for an R-rated film (Contraband opened last month to a nice $25 million opening take). Co-starring Ryan Reynolds, Safe House was the number one alternative for those who didn’t have any interest in – or had been dragged to – The Vow. Reviews for the film were decidedly mixed as evidenced by its 53% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Opening in third place was the PG-rated family adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. The sequel to the 2008 Brendan Fraser 3D remake of Journey to the Center of The Earth opted to leave out that film’s lead for the follow up. In his place was Dwayne Johnson. Joining him for the ride were Michael Caine, Luis Guzman and Vanessa Hudgens. Reviews were on the negative side (42% Rotten Tomatoes rating), but families still opted to check the adventure out. Whether this sequel will reach the $101 million domestic haul is a bit unclear at this point. The film will easily cross the $100 million mark in foreign markets and will do so pretty quickly as the movie opened in many overseas markets last month and has amassed $80 million thus far.
Rounding out the quartet of big openers was the reissue of the 1999 blockbuster Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Years of endless online bitching from fans couldn’t stop Jar Jar Binks and company as Menace hopped on the 3D reissue bandwagon to earn a great $23 million from 2,655 screens. One could credit the bigger-than-expected opening either to inflated ticket prices for 3D or the fact that many of those who grew up on George Lucas’ space saga now have the opportunity to let their kids experience Star Wars on the big screen, the latter factor being one of the big reasons the 1997 re-releases of the original films did so well.
The weekend estimate for The Phantom Menace brings the film up to the fifth spot on the all-time box office champs (not adjusted for inflation). In today’s numbers, Menace’s $454 million domestic take is good enough to put the film in position to pass the 1977 original’s $460 million domestic haul. Once you adjust the grosses for inflation, Menace would still be close to $700 million behind Star Wars. Next up is Attack of the Clones 3D sometime in 2013.
Last week’s champ, the low-budget sci-fi flick Chronicle, dropped by an acceptable 44% to an estimated $12.3 million. To date, the well-reviewed Fox flick has earned $40.1 million and could find its way to the $60 million mark (or five times the movie’s production budget).
The remainder of the top ten was as follows:
6. The Woman In Black (CBS Films) $10.3 million (-51%) $35.4 million to date
7. The Grey (Open Road Films) $5.08 million (-45%) $42.8 million
8. Big Miracle (Universal Pictures) $3.9 million (-50%) $13.2 million
9. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) $3.5 million (-23%) $70.7 million
10. Underworld: Awakening (Sony/Screen Gems) $2.5 million (-55%) $58.9 million
Next weekend, Ghost Rider 2, This Means War and The Secret World of Arrietty will try to repeat the $20 million or higher feat.
– Shawn Fitzgerald