There was good news to go around this weekend as each of the four major studio releases opened to over $20 million. That is an almost unheard of feat on any weekend, let alone a non-holiday-enhanced weekend in February. Overall, the box office looks to finish up 25% from last year’s post-Super Bowl frame to provide 2012 its sixth win in a row.
|4||Phantom Menace 3D||$23,000,000||$23|
|6||The Woman in Black||$10,300,000||$35.4|
Leading the charge on this (sort of) record-breaking weekend was the Sony/Screen Gems release The Vow with a three-day take of $41.7 million from 2,958 locations. On Super Bowl weekend 2010, Screen Gems opened its romantic drama Dear John to $30.4 million: the biggest debut in that studio’s history. Following the same formula (and even including the same star in Channing Tatum) most box office watchers expected The Vow to open slightly higher than Dear John, thanks mostly to its non-Super Bowl-impaired release date. But The Vow surprised us all on Friday with a debut that was not only higher than Dear John but higher than the first day of Valentine’s Day and almost every other romance movie in recent memory.
We have certainly seen much bigger February openings. The all-time February champ is still 2004’s The Passion of the Christ with $83.8 million and, around this time in 2010, Valentine’s Day led a record-breaking weekend with its $56.2 million debut. That frame also saw two other movies debut with over $30 million apiece, but it fell during the four-day President’s Day holiday and had Valentine’s Day scheduled in its favor to boot. That double-holiday frame still stands as February’s highest weekend of all time, but the fact that we could get close to that year’s grosses without a holiday incentive is pretty impressive.
With its first place finish, The Vow is naturally going to command the lion’s share of the attention this weekend, which is a shame for Safe House. On any other February the action-drama’s numbers would probably have been good enough for first place. Safe House nearly doubled its financial expectations entering this weekend with a $39.3 million debut from 3,119 venues. That gives Denzel Washington his biggest opening since American Gangster’s $43.5 million back in November of 2007 and more than enough reason to allow Safe House to steal some first place thunder from The Vow.
So we have established that both The Vow and Safe House did bigger business than anyone expected. That goes double – no triple – for Journey 2: Mysterious Island. Back in 2008, Journey to the Center of the Earth was a modest success for Warner Brothers/New Line, eventually taking in $101 million domestically. On its opening weekend, however, Journey was no blockbuster – even with the then-fresh incentive of 3D technology on its side. The first Journey opened to $21 million… in July. No one imagined that the film’s sequel (with a new cast) could top that figure… in February. But that is exactly what it did: from 3,470 locations, the 3D Journey 2 took in an estimated $27.5 million and more than doubled expectations. Journey 3, here we come.
The final film in this weekend’s $20 million club is the 3D reissue of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. I’m guessing you’ve heard of it. This weekend, The Phantom Menace was the only film that did not crush early expectations for its success, largely because it had so much success back in 1999 with its first theatrical release… and after that on DVD… and then a few months ago on BluRay. Seriously, considering that almost everyone on the planet has seen The Phantom Menace and considering it is easily the least-beloved of the Star Wars films, the fact that the 3D reissue came in at or just under projections with $23 million is an accomplishment in itself.
The success of The Vow can’t be good news for This Means War – next weekend’s heavily-touted Valentine’s Day release. This Means War will now debut in 2,600 theatres on Tuesday and expand to 3,100 locations by Friday, giving The Vow some room. Next week’s also got Ghost Rider 2 on tap in 3,000 locations… and I know we’ve all been waiting for that particular sequel to drop…