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It took its second weekend – and even Saturday and Sunday of that – but Safe House slipped by the competition this President’s Day Weekend, just edging past The Vow‘s second weekend take and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‘s debut. The Denzel Washington starrer might find itself down a notch when the actual numbers are revealed. When the numbers are this close, it could be anyone’s ballgame until all the numbers come in. For now, though, it remains at #1.

This is Washington’s first film to hit #1 at the box office since American Gangster debuted in 2007 with $43.5m. Not surprisingly, that film remains Washington’s biggest domestic earner to date with $130.1m. Safe House‘s chances of toppling that are not completely out of reach. The film dropped just over 40% from last weekend. That’s not great, but it’s definitely below average. With a few more solid weekends such as this, the film could very easily get past that $130m mark. I’m sure Ryan Reynolds would appreciate that, as well.

The Vow and This Means War were vying for the Valentine’s Day crowd, and while the more action-driven of the two didn’t open with horrible numbers, there’s not denying the strength a film has when it involves Channing Tatum looking for love. The Vow is well on its way to topping $100m. At this point, it’s become a race to see which film, this or Safe House, will be the first of 2012 to do so. Strong money is on Safe House simply because it appears to have the more stable longevity. Regardless of its place when the end of the year comes, The Vow is already seen as an impressive success story. You can be sure Tatum is getting more and more romantic movie offers as the days go on.

After Trespass, which brought in $24,094 domestic and died a forgettable death On Demand, Cage needed a hit. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was not it. The film, which reportedly cost $57m as opposed to the $110m 2007′s Ghost Rider had to spend, made less than half in its opening opening weekend than its predecessor did. The first Ghost Rider didn’t have 3-D dollars working in its favor, either. Cage will be just fine. This won’t be the first bomb he’s ever headlined, nor will it be his last if track record is any indication. However, don’t expect Ghost Rider 3-D to be greenlit any time soon. That title is just redundant, anyway.

Some international numbers should be noted. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and The Secret World of Arrietty didn’t exactly light the world on fire with their domestic numbers. Journey 2 has made $53m in the US so far, and Arrietty opened this weekend with $6.4m. However, the real winner for each of these films has been in their foreign box office. Arrietty, a Japanese film, has already pulled in $126.3m outside of the US making its worldwide total $134.4m. Journey 2 has made $128m in foreign markets bringing its worldwide total to $187.5m. Arrietty‘s foreign financial success is a given. Foreign ticket sales, particularly in Japan, are the reason Studio Ghibli has a film in theaters every few years.

But the reason behind Journey 2‘s foreign success is a little more shrouded. Dwayne Johnson is an international star. That’s without a doubt, but not all of his films are huge moneymakers in foreign markets. Journey to the Center of the Earth made decent money internationally. It ended its run in 2008 with $241.9m. Looking at Walden Media as a whole, we see that most of their films fare particularly well outside of the US. The light-hearted family entertainment aspect combined with Johnson gives us a good idea why Journey 2 is becoming such a huge, worldwide success. Journey 3 might not be too far off. Don’t worry. It’ll be in 3-D.

Phantom Menace dropped 64.4%. That would be it, and we’d leave it as a joke unto itself if it weren’t for the fact that Star Wars: Episode I has now become the most successful Star Wars films in terms of domestic box office. Phantom Menace slipped past the original Star Wars to become #4 on the all-time domestic chart. It’s total domestic gross is now $467.1m, $997.4m worldwide. Look for it to become the 11th member of the Billion Dollar Club sometime in the next week. That is a lot of money made off of a “poodoo” joke.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. Safe House – $23.8m (-40.8%) $78.1m total
  2. The Vow -$23.1m (-43.9%) $85m total
  3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – $22.1m NEW
  4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $19.9m (-27.1%) $53m total
  5. This Means War – $17.3m NEW
  6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace – $8m (-64.4%) $33.8m total
  7. Chronicle – $7.6m (-36.9%) $51.1m total
  8. The Woman in Black – $6.7m (-33.6%) $45.3m total
  9. The Secret World of Arrietty – $6.4m NEW
  10. The Grey – $3.1m (-37.7%) $48m total

$138m is a step down from last weekend, but it’s an increase over President’s Day Weekend 2011 when Unknown debuted with $21.8m. I Am Number Four and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son were the supplemental releases making $19.4m and $16.3m, respectively. While the numbers for the top 5 were every bit as close together this year as they were last, they’re still higher with three films coming in with $20+m as opposed to just one.

Next weekend might not see the return of huge numbers, but there are four new films ready to make their box office splashes. Act of Valor, Gone, Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, and Wanderlust are all hitting wide release. It’ll be Oscar weekend, so the odds of The Descendants and/or The Artist returning to a place on the charts are very good.

We’ll be back later in the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.


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