1. The Vow - $41.7M - $41.7M
2. Safe House - $39.3M - $39.3M
3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - $27.5M - $27.5M
4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - $23M - $23M
5. Chronicle - $12.3M - $40.1M
6. The Woman in Black - $10.3M - $35.4M
7. The Grey - Awaiting Figures
8. Big Miracle - $3.8M - $13.1M
9. The Descendants - $3.5M - $70.7M
10. Underworld Awakenings - $2.5M - $58.9M
Given it is essentially Valentine's Weekend, it's certainly a busy one filmwise. Hollywood have decided to go with "Throw everything at the public, something will stick" release pattern as we've got a rom-com, a 3D re-release, an action thriller and a family adventure (also in 3D). That's before we get to the second frames for Chronicle and The Woman in Black. One thing was evident by Saturday afternoon - this was going to be a big weekend, with all four of the new releases debuting to more than $20M.
The Valentine themed film this year is The Vow, which stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. The couple play a husband and wife who are involved in a car accident which leaves Paige (McAdams) in a coma. When she recovers, she has no memory of her husband and he must work hard to make her fall in love with him again. While the idea sounds like the basis for a Nicholas Sparks novel, it's actually loosely based on real life true story. Tatum starred in the 2010 Valentine movie, Dear John, which saw a $112M return from a $25M budget (and also became infamous for being the film that knocked Avatar off the no.1 spot). While competition existed in the guise of the new films, the female/date night/Valentine demographic were poorly represented, giving the flick a potential foot in the door. Critics weren't big on The Vow and it currently sits on a 27% approval rating, only slightly pooer than Dear John.
Maybe it was Valentine's Day coming up, perhaps the aforementioned demographic turning out in force, but The Vow got off to an incredibly strong start on Friday, taking in an impressive $15.3M, good enough for the top spot. Dear John opened to $30M but even with front loading, The Vow was set to best it, and then some. The picture remained strong over the remainder of the frame and finished up Sunday with $41.7M, Tatum's second best opening weekend after G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The good news continues two-fold - The Vow cost only $30M to produce, a figure comfortably covered with this weekend's haul - and the fact that it should play well through the week, especially on Tuesday. It will face competition from This Means War next frame, which has sneak peaks on Valentine's Day too, but this is a solid performance no matter how The Vow continues its theatrical run.
Safe House is the new action thriller from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (who struck big in his native land with Easy Money) which stars Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. The latter stars an ex-CIA agent brought in for questioning at a South African based safe house, watched over by Reynolds' Matt Weston. When the place is destroyed seemingly by rebel fighters, the two must work together to make it to safety and discover if they're part of a much bigger conspiracy. Trailers revealed the film to be a hi-octane action thriller, with solid support from the two stars. Safe House looked to be the one to catch - even if Universal had kept things fairly low key in the hype stakes. Reynolds would be coming off the back of failure in the guise of Green Lantern and The Change-Up, while Washington was last on screen in 2010's Unstoppable. Review wise, the film scored just above average (53%), and had to take a second place to The Phantom Menace (59%).
Like The Vow, Safe House performed strong on opening day, with a $13.8M take. Obviously there was some cross over competition from Chronicle and The Grey (and The Vow), but that first day set the film up for an equally strong three day finish. From Friday into Saturday, Safe House kept up the pressure and at one point some analysts thought it was in with a shot at the top spot. Ultimately it had to settle for a second placing but it does so with little disappointment. The $39.3M weekend figure is Washington's second best opening after American Gangster back in 2007 - indeed, on a quieter weekend the movie could have been looking at a $45M start. Unlike the Tatum/McAdams flick, Safe House will be hit hard by the Ghost Rider sequel next frame and could do with a much better hold in order to get closer to its $80M production budget. All that aside, this is another great frame for a new release.
Something of an usual sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island features just one main returning cast member from Journey To the Centre of the Earth (2008) - Josh Hutcherson. Brendan Fraser declined the offer to return (as did Anita Briem and Jane Wheeler, whose character is played by Kristin Davies this time around) despite the film being a huge success ($241M worldwide). This time around Dwayne Johnson takes on lead duties as Hank Parsons, step-father to Hutcherson's Sean Anderson, as they embark on a quest to find the titular mystery island, and rescue Sean's grandfather (Michael Caine) in the process. However, finding the island quickly becomes the least of their problems when they discover it's populated by all manner of prehistoric creatures, alongside more traditional, but oversized, animals & insects. With The Phantom Menace offering the only competition, Journey 2 had the majority of the family market to itself but would families be willing to pay for the higher priced 3D tickets, which the studio would be pushing? Interestingly, the first film was one of the first of the new wave of 3D features and helped open the eyes of the studios to see that 3D was once again a viable venture.
Despite opening in more locations than the other three releases, Journey 2 didn't initially have quite the same pull with the public. The 3D surcharge may have done more to hinder, than help the picture - or so it seemed. Out the gate on Friday, Journey 2 had to settle for $6.5M, more than $2M behind Menace (but not dissimilar to Journey To The Centre of the Earth's first day). But thanks in part to the Saturday matinees, the film surged, adding an amazing $12M in just one day, and pushing The Phantom Menace back down to fourth. That weekend take of $27.3M is some way ahead of what the original film made in the same time frame ($21M). What's worth noting is that, on most any other weekend, $27M would have been a great start (it still is) and secured the film the top spot. It is only thanks to the strong showing of the other new releases that the film finds itself having to settle for a third place finish. This sequel cost $79M to bring to the big screen, but given its start in North America, and a further $41M already overseas, this one won't lose Walden Media any money - in fact, it might even surpass the global finish of the first film.
Back in 1999, The Phantom Menace was the film that was at the top of almost everyone's must see film list. George Lucas had finally gone back to the Star Wars universe and promised to show everyone where it had all began - the rise of Darth Vader, The Empire, C3PO and Ben Kenobi. Hype for the film was beyond pretty much any other movie ever released, and that pressure, with the lacklustre end-product, would go on to make The Phantom Menace one of the most successful disappointments in cinematic history ($924M worldwide just for the flick's cinematic release - and that's beside the huge merchandising business associated with it). Jump forward to September 2010, and the announcement that Lucas was converting the entire Star Wars series for 3D re-release, starting with Phantom in February 2012. Reviews back in 1999 weren't actually that poor, with around 60% of critics finding something they liked about the picture (Roger Ebert awarded it 3 and a half stars). More than ten years on, would the public be more forgiving? Certainly there was interest in the film, with it making up for 10% of all advanced ticket sales last week - but would the extra 3D surcharge put many more off?
Perhaps, appears to be the answer. Phantom Menace ended up in third place on Friday with an $8.6M start - that's from 2,655 locations, the lowest of all the new releases (with, one assumes, the vast majority being in 3D). Comparisons with the film's original release don't quite work due to the time that has passed, the huge amount of hype surrounding the film and its excessive front loading, but given the ticket surcharge and general consensus of this being the weakest of all the movies (not to mention competition from Journey 2), $8.6M isn't actually that bad of a start. That figure had risen to $23M by Sunday night, which should have comfortably covered the cost of the 3D conversion. The additional money pushes The Phantom Menace to fifth position in All-time domestic chart, behind only Star Wars, The Dark Knight, Titanic and Avatar (Source: BoxofficeGuru). Next weekend's performance should see whether it was mainly the fans that turned out this frame - and perhaps give Lucas an idea as to when he wants to re-release Attack of the Clones 3D, which is currently set for an undisclosed date in 2013.
After success last frame, Chronicle found itself down 60% on a Friday to Friday basis, in thanks partly to the competition from the new films (down a better 44% for the weekend as a whole). Given the film had recouped it production budget by last Saturday, everything it has made since has been a bonus, but Fox wouldn't have wanted the flick to vanish too quickly from public view - especially with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance just around the corner. Word of mouth kept the film in the top spot during the week, with Monday being its best day with a haul of $1.69M. Its $12.3M take this frame gives the found footage superhero flick a running total of $40M, with a further $12M overseas. Chronicle is going to be an exceptionally profitable film for Fox and there's already talk of director Josh Trank rebooting the Fantastic Four series for the studio.
Chronicle's release partner, The Woman In Black, also opened surprisingly well last frame and saw a similar Friday to Friday drop as the aforementioned film. Its weekend total was still a decent $10.3M, and the flick had little to concern itself with anyway given that it had recouped its production budget last weekend. The picture is yet to report any overseas numbers but given Daniel Radcliffe's popularity, there's no reason why The Woman in Black can't repeat, or even exceed, its current North American total.
With two new films taking on the family market, Big Miracle could only sit there and hope for the best. The true life tale opened to a lacklustre $7.7M last week and could only manage a further $3.8M this frame. Universal must have been quite disappointed - they didn't even issue figures for the film's Friday take.
[The Grey figures/analysis will appear here shortly]
The George Clooney starrer The Descendants hit $70M this weekend and holds onto a top ten spot despite being at only 1,580 locations. While it seems likely that this will be its last weekend in the top ten, given its performance so far, anything is possible.
Underworld Awakenings is now within a stone's throw of becoming the most successful Underworld film of the series so far. While it's already the costliest at $70M, it still needs to surpass Underworld Evolutions $62.3M finish to become the biggest.
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