Weekend Wrap-Up

Soft Openers Slow Box Office Roll

By John Hamann

February 19, 2012

We cannot wait for Gibbs from NCIS to interrogate him.

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After a red hot pre-Valentine's Day weekend where The Vow popped with $41.2 million and Safe House was no slouch with $40.2 million, the box office cools a bit despite being the President's Day long weekend. Why? After a weekend with four new releases with high want-to-see value, this weekend we have two new releases that are the opposite. Opening this weekend is the beyond unnecessary sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and This Means War, one of those nonsensical boy versus boy to get the girl movies (billed as a romantic comedy). The glitter in the void, though, is The Secret World of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibli (Princess Monoke, Spirited Away) release. Unfortunately for Ghibli, that awesome glitter rarely turns to gold at the North American box office.

Somewhat surprisingly, our number one film over the the long President's Day weekend is Safe House, the thriller with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps partially thanks to its A- Cinemascore, Safe House did better than both last weekend's winner The Vow and both larger scale new openers, earning $24 million over the three-day portion of the long weekend. Of course, once the actual totals come in, any one of the top three films could be our winner.


Safe House fell a not-terrible 40%. While the Universal production did not have the Valentine's Day that The Vow had, it still managed to add to its big weekend gross with a $6.1 million Tuesday, which only serves to pad Denzel Washington's second biggest opening of his career. Given the competition from Ghost Rider and This Means War this weekend, Safe House is going to emerge from this frame in a good position, as next weekend's more male-oriented releases (Act of Valor, Gone) look soft at this point. So far, the $85 million Universal release has already collected $78.2 million domestically. The thriller is a lock for $100 million and I wouldn't be surprised if in the end, Safe House earns more than The Vow.

Second place goes not to the Nicolas Cage-led Ghost Rider, but instead belongs to last weekend's champion The Vow. The Rachel McAdams film earned another $23.6 million over the three-day portion of the long weekend, and dropped 42% compared to last weekend. This has to be considered a solid hold for a romantic film that already had a big opening frame, as well as a big Valentine's Day ($11.6 million, up 247% from the previous day). The Vow had already earned a stunning $62 million before getting to its second Friday, and in admitted hindsight, the studio's schedule placement of the film comes off as a superlative move. The calendar lined up perfectly for a romantic movie like this one, with the opening frame having some distance from the actual Valentine's Day on Tuesday, meaning it could make big money the weekend before Valentine's Day, make big money on the actual day, and then follow all of that up with four more big earning days during the long weekend.

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