Box Office Guru

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

by | February 21, 2012 | Comments

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.