Box Office: ‘The Vow’ and ‘Safe House’ Have No Bad Feelings About This

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You probably wouldn’t either if your film came up against Star Wars and took it down to the #4 spot. That’s precisely what happened this past weekend, as The Vow and Safe House stepped all over Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and The Phantom Menace‘s 3D re-release. The numbers between the #1 and #2 movies were so close we had to wait until Monday when the actual numbers came out to really see who won out. In the end, it was the chick flick, the one with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, the one couples went out in droves to see, probably to get in Valentine’s Day dates before the holiday even gets here.

And why should that surprise anyone? Romantic movies, whether they’re comedies or not, have always been big winners around Valentine’s Day. Last year Just Go With It took in $30.5m in its opening weekend. The year before Dear John took the top spot with $30.4m. But The Vow wins all, as it gave Channing Tatum his biggest opening weekend outside of G.I. Joe‘s $54.7m Summer release in 2009. It’s also a big winner for Rachel McAdams, too, who only has Sherlock Holmes and its $62.3m ahead of The Vow for big openings. The Vow even beat out The Notebook ($13.4m opening weekend in 2004), and that’s saying something. What would really say something is if its longevity can hold out and pull in some big numbers for its follow-up weekend. If that happens, everyone will be turning to Channing Tatum as the next, big star, and everyone will be saying, “Ryan Gosling who?” Okay, maybe not. That would never happen.

Safe House was another huge earner this weekend, proving itself to be quite the calling card for first-time English-language director, Daniel Espinosa. He’ll certainly be getting some calls this week. What’s surprising, though, is how well Safe House stacks up against Denzel Washington’s other opening weekends. His movies have never been huge blockbusters, and American Gangster with a $43.5m opening weekend in 2007 is the only one that beats Safe House. American Gangster is, in fact, Washington’s biggest movie domestic film of all time, pulling in $130.1m in its total run. Don’t expect Safe House to get anywhere close to that number, though.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island made $27.3m. Hip-hip-hooray for Dwayne Johnson. Go pop your pecs.

We really want to talk about Star Wars, though, don’t we? Few were shocked when it came out this Sunday that not only was the re-release of Phantom Menace not debuting in the #1 spot, not only did it not trounce all the competition, it came in fourth out of the four new releases. That’s a slight improvement if you’re connecting its release to the original trilogy’s re-releases in 1997. At that time, Star Wars opened with $35.9m, Empire Strikes Back struck…um…back with $21.9m, and Return of the Jedi made $16.2m in its opening weekend of re-release. While fans were certainly looking forward to seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen, no one was clamoring hard enough for Phantom Menace to make much of an impact. Whether this has any affect on effect on Lucas re-releasing the rest of the saga remains to be seen, but chances are that it won’t.

The $22.4m Phantom Menace made this weekend did pop it up a few notches on the all-time domestic gross chart, overtaking E.T. and Shrek 2 ($435.1m and $441.2m, respectively). Phantom Menace has its forefather, the original Star Wars, next in its sights. Star Wars is currently #4 on the all-time chart with $460.9m domestic. Phantom Menace has a chance to overtake that, as well, but don’t look for it to even come close to #3, The Dark Knight with $533.3m.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. The Vow – $41.2m NEW
  2. Safe House – $40.1m NEW
  3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $27.3m NEW
  4. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3-D – $22.4m NEW
  5. Chronicle – $12m (-45%) $39.9m total
  6. The Woman in Black – $10.1m (-51.6%) $35.2m total
  7. The Grey – $5m (-45.8%) $42.7m total
  8. Big Miracle – $3.9m (-49.2%) $13.2m total
  9. The Descendants – $3.4m (-24.4%) $70.6m total
  10. Underworld Awakening – $2.4m (-54.9%) $58.9m total

This $167.8m is a nice, little boost for the overall box office. It’s the biggest weekend since Christmas, and while it isn’t the biggest Valentine’s Day in recent memory – 2009 had the actual movie, Valentine’s Day, and how can you beat that? – it certainly was a surprising one in regards to who made what. The romance crowd and the Denzel Washington crowd are not to be taken lightly, while the promises of “We aren’t paying to see that” from many Star Wars fans proved to be kept. Journey 2 didn’t surprise anyone. That Dwayne Johnson is so predictable.

Next weekend sees Nicolas Cage returning to the big screen, and that man is anything but predictable. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance revs into theaters while This Means War tries to take some of the Valentine’s Day crowd away from The Vow, and The Secret World of Arrietty finds its way into roughly 1300 screens to make its own mark. Only one of these is sure to have “full Cage”, so only one of these is really worth our time. Really.

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

Jeremy's been writing about movies for a good, 15 years, starting with the film review column of his high school newspaper. He stands proud as the first person in his high school to have seen (and recommend) Pulp Fiction. Jeremy went on to get a B.A. in Cinema and Photography with a minor in journalism. His experience and knowledge of film is aided by the list of 6600 films he has seen in his life (so far). Jeremy's belief is that there are no bad films, just unrealized possibilities. Except Batman and Robin. That shit was awful.

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