By Gabe Toro | The Playlist February 19, 2012 at 12:37PM
Love is in the air, but "Safe House" ain't hearin' it. In weekend two, the film surpassed last week's champ, "The Vow," if only barely. While the film hasn’t done quite the same weekday business as the Tatum-McAdams romancer so far, it’s outperformed its modest programmer aspirations and should easily leapfrog $100 million. Amusingly enough, this would give Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds both four $100 million domestic earners on their resume. Sometimes the line separating a star and a journeyman can be very thin, though to Denzel’s credit, he’s never really been the type to command massive $200 million budgets. Though, yeah, he probably would have been a good “Green Lantern.” Now that that’s been brought up in conversation, let us ignore it forever. Apologies.
How can you explain the smash business commanded by “The Vow”? Clearly, some couples just need that extra spark provided by a true-life story of two lovers separated by tragedy and reunited through being amazingly gorgeous physical specimens. Its closest comparative title is “Dear John,” but that film didn’t have the boost given by an $11 million Valentine’s Day, which “The Vow” registered this past Tuesday. As a result, by the end of Monday, the picture’s looking at $90 million plus, with a big $120 million or stronger finish. It’s safe to say Screen Gems expected a hit, but they certainly weren’t expecting a blockbuster, their highest grossing domestic release yet, at least based on the $30 million budget.
Sony has to thank Screen Gems from saving them from some bad PR this weekend. Columbia Pictures released “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” to sharp indifference, the sequel/reboot grossing less than half of its predecessor with pumped-up 3D pricing. There’s several curious factors at play here. First of all, how did that terrible first film pull in $52 million over its first four days five years ago? Secondly, given that it was pricey, who thought another "Ghost Rider" would have a weekend much better than this one?
A lot’s changed in the last five years. The bloom is off the superhero rose, not to mention Nicolas Cage’s career. Though it’s unclear what defines a respectable showing for this outing, as the budget was reportedly $35 million less this time around ($75, before p+a). Sony hid the film from critics, but it sounds as if this film is drawing only a few more positive fan responses than the first picture. They might make it out alive on this one with DVD rentals, but this should probably be a lesson to anyone who wants to “reboot” a character or story after a terrible first film. “Ghost Rider” -- simply not a franchise at this point.
The strongest hold from last weekend? “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which only lost about a quarter of its audience. It’s kiddie fare, and the most high-profile option for the tots right now, so it makes sense that the business would be brisk, though both the first and second weekends have been far stronger than its $100 million-grossing predecessor. Additionally, because audiences overseas love family-friendly 3D, 'Journey 2' has mirrored the worldwide 'Phantom Menace' re-release, but it has soundly trumped it worldwide and is currently the number one movie in many global regions. This could very well be a monster far bigger than the other three releases currently trumping it stateside.
A middling debut for “This Means War,” the decently budgeted action comedy that was sold on two semi-names fighting over a maybe-A-List female lead with a number of recent dubious decisions on her resume. The number isn’t a disaster, especially in the wake of the couple-siphoning power of “The Vow,” but a so-so opening combined with some fairly negative reviews suggest this is a zero-sum for its actors. Reese Witherspoon’s last picture, “Water For Elephants,” did solid business, but it was coming after the disaster of “How Do You Know,” and it’s clear she’s had a rough time capitalizing on her Oscar back in 2006, only sporadically showing up in films. Chris Pine, meanwhile, only has this and the so-so “Unstoppable” on his resume, and clearly hasn’t vaulted to the top of the A-List. Tom Hardy? Just glad to be here.
In a match-up of today’s nerds versus yesterday’s, “Chronicle” held up well enough to almost surpass the free-falling 'Phantom Menace' re-release. The reheated 'Star Wars' picture was heavily frontloaded even last weekend, with most of the tickets bought in advance for people who think a movie about a series of intergalactic meetings is an “event.” As a result, a mass exodus of nearly 70% of audience members occurred, allowing “Chronicle” to reap a few third weekend benefits, vaulting over $50 million. That said, 'Phantom Menace' eked out enough extra scratch to beat out "Star Wars: A New Hope" to become the #4 highest-grossing domestic grosser of all time (behind "Avatar," "Titanic" and "The Dark Knight"). “The Woman In Black” also held steady, surpassing “The Back-Up Plan” to be CBS Films’ highest-grossing release this far.
Quietly debuting at 1,522 locations was Disney’s release of Studio Ghibli’s “The Secret World Of Arrietty.” It’s unclear as to what’s at stake with Disney’s distribution relationship with Hayao Miyazaki’s anime company, but this is the biggest domestic opening for an anime picture that won’t violate your eyeballs, bested by the opening frames of the three “Pokemon” movies and the “Yu-Gi-Oh” adaptation (?). Though, of course, it‘s irrelevant -- 'Arrietty,' to date, has already grossed $126 million worldwide.
The Academy films continue to do meager business as we approach the Oscars, though they've been kept in the marketplace in hopes that the Academy Award exposure will give them a needed boost. "The Descendants" fared the best, though it's the only one in a thousand theaters, as it boosted itself over $75 million domestic with a $2.9 million weekend. A stronger per-screen average greeted frontrunner "The Artist," which added no screens and boosted its business from last weekend. Though the picture pulled in only $2.3 million, bringing its total to a not-bad $27 million, though youn wonder just how much the Weinsteins are throwing out there to keep this film in circulation. "Hugo" also generated a similar interest compared to last week, dropping on 7%, but it's $1.6 million only brought the film's domestic gross to $67 million.
Again, the big indie winner of the weekend was "A Separation." The film averaged $6k per-screen in its eighth week of release, expanding from 45 to 54 engagements and grossing $335k, bringing its total over the $2 million mark. It bested the weekend's arthouse debuts, including "Thin Ice," which collected $191k at 53 locations, and the documentary "Undefeated," which grabbed $31k at five engagements. "Rampart" went from five to 28 locations, with a decent $166k, while "In Darkness" expanded from three to fourteen locations with a $77k take. Oscar nominee "Chico And Rita" also expanded, from one to five theaters, grossing a solid $27k. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Safe Hausu (Universal) - $24 million ($78 mil.)
2. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems) - $23.6 million ($86 mil.)
3. Ghost Rider 2: The Ghost That Rides Motorcycles 3D (Sony) - $22 million
4. Journey 2: The Sequel To Journey 1 3D (Warner Bros.) - $20.1 million ($53 mil.)
5. This Means Chores (Fox) - $17.6 million
6. Star Wars: You Remember This Shit, Right? 3D (Fox) - $7.9 million ($33 mil.)
7. Chronicle (Fox) - $7.5 million ($51 mil.)
8. The Woman In Black (CBS) - $6.7 million ($45 mil.)
9. The Secret World Of Arrietty (Disney) - $6.4 million
10. The Grey (Open Road) - $3 million ($48 mil.)