Box Office Guru Wrapup: Washington Rules Presidents Day with Safe House

The long Presidents Day holiday frame saw a close battle between four films competing for the top spot but it was Denzel Washington who audiences selected as commander-in-chief of the box office as his action holdover Safe House beat all competitors in its second weekend to claim first place. The next two spots also went to two of last week's overperforming films which both remained popular with North American ticket buyers. Rounding out the top five were new releases with Nicolas Cage's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengenace targeting males in fourth and Reese Witherspoon's This Means War playing to women in fifth. The overall marketplace over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period once again beat last year's levels as spending was spread out across a variety of titles with no one film dominating the scene.

Washington's action thriller Safe House led the long weekend as Universal's CIA pic grossed an estimated $28.4M thanks to a 41% decline over the Friday-to-Sunday span. The 11-day total surged to $82.6M and the film marked the first time a holdover ruled Presidents Day weekend since 2005's Hitch. House's ten-day take of $78.1M was just a bit off from the $80.4M that his 2007 hit American Gangster made over the same period of time. That film's $130.2M total stands as the Oscar winner's career best, however Safe House has a shot at beating it if it continues to play well in the coming weeks.

Swapping positions from last weekend's close race, The Vow settled for the runner-up spot this time with an estimated $26.6M including a 44% drop over the three-day period. Sony has banked a stellar $88.5M after 11 days easily beating the $56.1M that Channing Tatum's 2010 romance Dear John grossed over the same span. A finish near the $130M mark could result for this hit as well. Vow cost about $30M to produce, though, which was about one-third as much as Safe House's $85M budget.

Posting the best hold in the top ten was the effects-driven adventure sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island which slipped to an estimated $26.4M for a three-day decline of only 27%. The Warner Bros. franchise film starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has banked an impressive $59.5M in its first 11 days and could end up beating the $101.7M of its 2008 predecessor which was headlined by Brendan Fraser. This is the second consecutive action franchise that The Rock has stepped into with encouraging results. Last April's Fast Five went on to score the highest gross ever in the decade-long series and this summer the former wrestler steps into G.I. Joe: Retaliation hoping to give that series a boost too.

Leading the weekend's new releases was the Nicolas Cage sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance which landed in fourth place with an estimated $25.7M over four days. Averaging $8,097 from 3,174 theaters, the 3D action pic took in half the business of its 2D predecessor which opened a year ago shattering the Presidents Day opening weekend record with $52M over the four-day session. According to studio research, the audience was 61% male and 52% over 25 while the CinemaScore grade was a poor C+. The new Rider installment was reportedly produced for a lower cost than the first film.

Opening in fifth place was the romantic action-comedy This Means War starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy with an estimated $20.4M. The Fox release about a pair of CIA studs using their agency tricks to compete for the same woman averaged $6,397 from 3,189 theaters. Reviews were dismal but audiences were mostly satisfied with what they got as the CinemaScore grade was a good A-. As expected, adult women made up the primary audience as studio research showed that the crowd was 65% female and 60% 25 and older. The three-day take of $17.4M was in the same neighborhood as the openings for some of Witherspoon's previous starring vehicles like the $16.8M of last year's Water for Elephants and the $16.4M of 2005's Just Like Heaven.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D fell sharply in its second weekend to an estimated $10.2M for an 11-day total of $36M. In lifetime box office terms, that allowed the Jar Jar Binks tale to surpass the original Star Wars for the number four spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters with $467.1M. The sci-fi pic Chronicle held up well in its third round with an estimated $9.2M for a $52.7M cume for Fox.

Following in eighth with an estimated $8.1M was the Miyazaki animated film The Secret World of Arrietty which debuted in 1,522 locations for a mild $5,323 average for Disney. The supernatural thriller The Woman in Black grossed an estimated $7.9M for a $46.5M total. Rounding out the top ten was Liam Neeson's The Grey with an estimated $3.8M and a cume to date of $48.7M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $166.6M over the four-day holiday frame which was up 11% from last year when Unknown opened in the top spot with $25.5M; but down 22% from 2010's holiday when Valentine's Day debuted at number one with $63.1M.

Comments

King  S.

King Simba

Not surprised about Ghost Rider's middling debut. Was anyone really asking for a sequel to the first one? Also the marketing seemed to practically scream at you "this guy pisses fire - you can't miss it!" seriously, if pissing fire is the only worthwhile thing in the film, I'll just download it from Youtube.

Was expecting bigger number from This Means War, but then again these action/comedy/romance hybrids haven't been doing very well lately, so I suppose it's to be expected.

Dwayne is proving himself to be quite the draw lately. What's to bet they won't try to put him in Ghost Rider 3 next so he can save the franchise? Meanwhile, Denzel continues to prove that he's one of the most reliable stars at the box office, while The Vow proves you can never underestimate your female audience (I'm surprised that hollywood isn't paying more attention to them. I mean you can have bigger success from films aimed at them than you can often have with comic book adaptations aimed at us nerds at a mere fraction of the budget)

Not surprised about Phantom Menace's fall. Beauty and the Beast didn't have much of a great hold either, and it didn't have to deal with the fanboy effect, plus it was considered the better film. Still, the film has now made 997 mil WW, and will cross the bil mark pretty soon, so I doubt George Lucas is going to abandon his plans to convert the rest of the Star Wars films. Heck, he could make another trilogy of Star Wars movies out of the money made by these re-releases alone, provided the rest of the franchise does as well as Phantom Menace in re-release.

Feb 21 - 10:35 AM

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Feb 25 - 03:25 AM

Corr

Alexander Sciury

Not surprised that Ghost Rider 2 fell flat. I've heard almost nothing but negative reviews from the first movie, and considering how GR2 got a C+ Cinema score and lower tomato-meter, I'm guessing this one is even worse.

I'm glad Chronicle held up pretty well, only a 24% drop. I saw it last week and it was really great, it deserves to do as well as it has been doing. Let's hope it continues doing well.

Feb 21 - 10:47 AM

Sputnik99

sputnik 99

I'm surprised Phantom Menace didn't do better. The theater I went to had a pretty big crowd. Not huge, but more than I thought were going to come. And listening to little kids laugh at Jar Jar jokes was kind of refreshing. Haven't heard any laughs at him in 13 years!

Feb 21 - 11:34 AM

Mr. Bo Ziffer

Mr. Bo Ziffer

You know how people say "That was the worst movie ever!" when they really mean they just didn't like it? I can honestly say, without hyperbole, that Ghost Rider 2 is the worst movie I've seen in theaters, and 2nd worst overall (behind House of the Dead). It shouldn't be this hard to make a cool Ghost Rider movie. I didn't have high expectations, but I did expect things like characters, plot, action scenes . . . you know, things the trailer showed you. I can't even pick out a single thing wrong with the movie, it was just . . . nothing! At least I didn't have to pay for my ticket.

Feb 21 - 11:34 AM

Jaxx Raxor

Adam Jones

I'm surprised Ghost Rider didn't win the weekend as the predessor did very well in 2007 around this same time in February but I guess being even worse hurt it. Safe House proves that Denzel is still a big draw and it was a nice hold for it. The Vow is of course a big money maker aired towards women. I wonder if it will start to drop as we move into March. Journey 2 also did pretty good. I think the Rock (and Bruce Willis!) will help the new GI Joe movie be a big hit this summer.

This Means War failed to attract men. I thought it was meant to appeal to both sexes? Getting over 20 million is still great.

No one has mentioned Arietty yet in the comments but that film actually beat Ponyo's first weekend both in terms of the overall gross and per theater (about $1000 more). It did open in more theaters than Ponyo but still its good that it got at least a decent run. Unfortunately anime (and many other foreign, non-English made productions) are going to struggle in the USA. However Studio Ghibi films has the mainstream appeal to get at least a decent audience in North American so congrats to Ghibli and Disney for this.

Feb 21 - 11:59 AM

King  S.

King Simba

Ghost Rider may have had a huge opening weekend, but it quickly collapsed after that, signifying that the word of mouth just wasn't that good. Plus, the five year wait was too much, especially for a film that isn't very memorable, further hurting the hype (unless your sequel is part of a massive franchise like Star Wars or Batman, it's best not to wait more than 2-3 years before releasing it)

Feb 21 - 12:17 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Ghost Rider may have had a huge opening weekend, but it quickly collapsed after that, signifying that the word of mouth just wasn't that good. Plus, the five year wait was too much, especially for a film that isn't very memorable, further hurting the hype (unless your sequel is part of a massive franchise like Star Wars or Batman, it's best not to wait more than 2-3 years before releasing it)

Feb 21 - 12:17 PM

Isaac

Isaac H

I saw Arrietty and loved it, though I'm not surprised it underperformed. It's hard for his films to hit a chord with US audiences, which is unfortunate because they are all so incredible.

Feb 21 - 03:52 PM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

I agree!!

Feb 21 - 04:17 PM

Corr

Alexander Sciury

I wouldn't exactly say that Arrietty underperformed. 8.6 million is not bad for that kind of film, and I don't think the studio that released it expected it to do much better than that. Especially considering as Studio Gibli's (sp?) best opening in the U.S. was Ponyo's with 3.5 Mill. Arrietty made almost twice that on the 3-day weekend.

Feb 21 - 05:16 PM

Isaac

Isaac H

That's not exactly what I meant...I realize that 8.5M is a solid take for one of Ghibli's films, but for the average family film released in 1500 theatres, 8.5M is rather lackluster. It'd be nice if his films reached the heights of something like a Pixar movie, as they're definitely on that level critically. I know it's an impossible dream, but it would be amazing to see happen.

Feb 21 - 05:18 PM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

I agree!!

Feb 21 - 04:17 PM

Corr

Alexander Sciury

I wouldn't exactly say that Arrietty underperformed. 8.6 million is not bad for that kind of film, and I don't think the studio that released it expected it to do much better than that. Especially considering as Studio Gibli's (sp?) best opening in the U.S. was Ponyo's with 3.5 Mill. Arrietty made almost twice that on the 3-day weekend.

Feb 21 - 05:16 PM

Isaac

Isaac H

That's not exactly what I meant...I realize that 8.5M is a solid take for one of Ghibli's films, but for the average family film released in 1500 theatres, 8.5M is rather lackluster. It'd be nice if his films reached the heights of something like a Pixar movie, as they're definitely on that level critically. I know it's an impossible dream, but it would be amazing to see happen.

Feb 21 - 05:18 PM

Isaac

Isaac H

That's not exactly what I meant...I realize that 8.5M is a solid take for one of Ghibli's films, but for the average family film released in 1500 theatres, 8.5M is rather lackluster. It'd be nice if his films reached the heights of something like a Pixar movie, as they're definitely on that level critically. I know it's an impossible dream, but it would be amazing to see happen.

Feb 21 - 05:18 PM

Bloody Mathias

Mathias N/A

It's very rare that the Tomato-meter lets me down, but it happened this weekend.

Based of the 90% rating it got from critics, and the fact that I read somewhere that it was Christopher Nolan's fave film of 2011, I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

I owe Stanley Kubrick an apology, 2001: A Space Odyssey is no longer the most boring film I've ever seen (Don't hate me, I know it's considered a sci-fi classic but those first 40 mins are incredibly boring and filled with lulla-bye music that forced my eyes shut the first 6 times i attempted to watch it). That honor now belongs to Tomas Alfredson's new film.

I don't have the space to list all the many things wrong with this film, but I will say that for the first time in my life, I actually nodded off for a few minutes. During the climax! Or should I say, during its pathetic attempt at a climax. I woke up in time to find out who the mole is but man alive, what a dull, laborious, snail-paced, humourless, ugly and mind-numbing film this was.

Don't pay to see this movie. Just watch the awesome and completely misleading trailer.
The movie you imagine while watching that trailer is light-years ahead of the actual film.

Feb 21 - 05:29 PM

Julian N.

Julian Nunez

Really surprised that Safe House is holding up well.It looked really mediocre when i saw the trailer.I saw Chronicle last Saturday and it was fantastic.One of my favorites of this year. Also saw some of this means war, i found it extremely bland and not funny, though.

Feb 21 - 07:40 PM

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