Weekend Forecast for February 10-12, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
February 10, 2012

Wow, that hat *does* make you look like a douche (moreso).

Suddenly, Valentine's Day (proximate) weekend is like July 4th, for all the potential hits opening up this weekend. Sure, we had to go back into our bag of past blockbusters for one of them, but that still counts. With four films that all look like solid earners, this could be one of the biggest weekends at the box office until May.

As the world turns its thoughts to the notion of “wuv”, we're presented with The Vow, a film which is kind of hard to believe doesn't come from the pen of Nicholas Sparks. Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum star in the film as a young married couple thrown into chaos when McAdams suffers near total amnesia in a car accident. Will she learn to love her husband again from scratch? Will there be tissue dispensers in the cup holders? Will Channing Tatum stare blankly off into space? C'mon.

Few genres are more time-of-year dependent than romance, with basically one weekend (maybe two or three) that they all shoot for, with it being a crap shoot for the other 51. This strategy has recently given us He's Just Not That Into You, Valentine's Day and is at least partially responsible for Just Go With It not being a career nadir for Adam Sandler (the other part of that being that he eventually made Jack and Jill). As the only game in town this weekend for this audience, The Vow is going to clean up.

Since starring in this generation's Love Story, The Notebook, McAdams has had a bit of an up and down career, picking up roles in the occasional giant blockbuster and knocking out a couple of modest hits, but she suffered a bit of a setback in 2010 with Morning Glory, which mostly just showed that people don't give a damn about Harrison Ford and/or inside baseball stuff on morning TV shows. Tatum's had some success of his own, particularly in Dear John, which was the week before Valentine's 2010, but he's really just Himbo Mk. 12, and while it's important to have recognizable names in this film, the specific actors don't matter all that much (though the implied connections don't exactly hurt). Reviews are kind of unimpressive, though that's fairly irrelevant to this crowd too. Look for this to dominate the weekend with $35 million.

You don't hear consistency praised much in relation to acting, but it's an invaluable skill for being a marquee name in Hollywood films. Take Denzel Washington, for instance, who stars in Safe House this weekend. (For the non-sports fans in the house, I apologize in advance, but it's the clearest metaphor I can think of) Denzel is kind of the movie version of Wade Boggs. Boggs was the very definition of a contact hitter, who rarely hit one out of the park, but almost never made an out, either. Over 18 years, he hit under .300 in just three seasons, with one of those being a mid-career dip and two others coming at the tail end of his career when he was older than dirt. In the same way, Washington has amassed an incredible record of box office – his last 12 films that opened in more than 2,000 venues started with 21, 22, 20, 16, 22, 20, 28, 20, 43, 32 and 22 million. I mean, just who else has a ten year run like that?

Oh right, the movie. Anyway, Safe House has Washington play a Jason Bourne-type renegade black ops agent who comes in from the cold to an American embassy with his enemies in hot pursuit. Washington does his usual scary intimidating thing a la Training Day and Man on Fire, while CIA agents Ryan Reynolds and Vera Farmiga are tasked with protecting him and figuring out just what the hell he's up to, and if he's even on their side.

Washington's films seem to hang on the premise for their box office, though as we've seen, there's not a whole lot of variation even in that. I'd say this is slightly better than the average premise for him, and spy thrillers are en vogue right now, so I'd give this about $26 million to start.

That murmuring you hear is the sound of angry nerds upset that I haven't brought up the Star Wars 3D re-release this weekend. Then again, it's The Phantom Menace 3D, so that could just be anger at the prequels themselves bubbling back up to the surface. If there's anyone who's proven better at getting people to pay again and again for the same product than George Lucas, I'd like to meet him, and maybe borrow some money. While Episode I did earn over $400 million the first go round, there's been an obvious reassessment of the film in the last ten years. So while you can count on Star Wars nerds to keep coming back for another round of abuse, there's nothing like the anticipation for this as there was with the re-releases in 1997. On the other hand, 3D Star Wars does sound like a gimmick matched in heaven. Then again, 3D isn't going to fix the dialogue or remove Jar Jar. This should outdo the Beauty and the Beast re-release from earlier this year, but Lion King numbers are probably out of the question. Give it $21 million.

Finally, we have the awkwardly titled Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, the sequel to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I will totally forgive you for if you don't remember it, or the fact that it made $101 million domestically (no, really!). Kind of the first film in the current 3D craze, it had a heavy founder factor in that figure as the novelty hadn't worn off yet.

Apparently aware of the idea they weren't going to get that easy ride this time, Brendan Fraser has been substituted out for Dwayne Johnson, but in terms of adventure films, that's probably a lateral move. Josh Hutcherson returns as the common thread with the first film, Michael Caine is added in full Jaws: The Revenge mode, and Vanessa Hudgens for the tweeners. I know, don't all rush in at once.

I'm struggling a bit to figure out just who thought it was a good idea to throw this movie up against Star Wars, which, as much as I slag on it, is still the 500-pound gorilla of adventure action, and is honing in on this film's 3D aspect as well. Okay, okay, it's the new film of the pair, but it's not like the first film was held up as any sort of classic of cinema, and the too-clever-by-half title almost ensures that people aren't going to connect it anyway. I'd expect this to be in a significant downturn from the original with a $14 million start.

We drop all four of these films into the mix with last week's Chronicle and The Woman in Black, which both earned over $20 million in a pair of mild upsets. The found-footage Chronicle received some surprisingly strong reviews, though its genre is not one that is conducive to legs even with positive word of mouth. I'd expect a $12 million follow up.

Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe proved he has a post-Harry Potter career with his horror film starting out far stronger than it had a real right to. Again, horror is not a genre known for longetivity in theaters, but it should be a solid $60-70 million earner, with $11 million this weekend.