Just about everything over performed this past weekend and for the second time ever we’ve had four movies each open above $20 million. Also, this was the second highest February weekend ever and actually all around one of the biggest ever. More about The Vow, Safe House, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace and others right after the break.
So The Vow won the weekend with a whopping $41.2 million, that’s $10 million more than what Dear John made two years ago (and what the studio expected). A perfect release date coupled with two popular leads (Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams) helped The Vow surpass its $30 million budget in just two days and it has a very good chance to become the second (you’ll see why below) movie of 2012 to pass the $100 million mark.
The first movie that should reach the $100 million mark in 2012 is Safe House, our number two with $40.1 million. Now you’re probably wondering, how can this make it to $100 million faster when The Vow opened higher? Well the answer is simple, The Vow was more frontloaded, suggesting weaker box office legs. From Friday to Saturday The Vow went up 9% and then down 44.6% on Sunday while Safe House was up 19.3% on Saturday and down 37.1% on Sunday. Sure, Valentine’s Day will help The Vow put a few millions more between it and Safe House, but come next week things will change in favor of the later. Simply put, it will reach that mark faster. It should also be noted that Safe House is Denzel Washington’s second highest opener after American Gangster in 2007 ($43.5 million).
In 3rd place we have another surprise, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with $27.3 million, actually managing to improve on its predecessor’s $21 million opening which is absolutely amazing for a number of reasons. Sequels to live-action kids films like this that take more than a two year break almost never meet expectations, not to mention 3D was the big new thing back in 2008 while recently families avoided the extra dimension like the plague. So what helped Journey 2 become such a hit? My guess is Warner Bros. delivered a competent marketing effort aimed at the right audience while replacing Brendan Fraser with Dwayne Johnson, arguably a much bigger draw now, was a great idea. How the mighty have fallen, remember back in 2001 when Dwayne Johnson made his big screen debut in the Brendan Fraser’s huge hit The Mummy Returns? Well, look at The Rock now.
In 4th place we have a not as spectacular but still impressive $22.4 million for the 3D re-release of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. That was enough to push the flick from 6th to 5th place on the all-time domestic chart, surpassing Shrek 2‘s $441.2 million with a gigantic $453.5 million. Sometime this week The Phantom Menace should also pass the original Star Wars ($460.9 million) and become the 4th highest grosser as well as the new series leader, unadjusted for inflation. As far as comparing this to past Star Wars re-releases, well it isn’t pretty. The original, brought back in 1997, opened with $35.9 million, The Empire Strikes Back had $21.9 million while Return of the Jedi hit $16.3 million. 15 years of inflation as well as no overpriced 3D make The Phantom Menace opening a very distant 4th in terms of tickets sold.
Rounding out the top 5 was Chronicle with $12 million for a 10-day total of $39.9 million. Meanwhile The Woman in Black was 6th with $10.1 million and $35.2 million after 10 days.
Finally, I’ll try to give you a better picture of just how big this weekend was. The overall gross for February 10-12 was $191.8 million. So far that’s the highest we’ve had this year while in 2011 there were only four normal weekends bigger than that. 2010 had five while 2009 only four. The last (and first) time we’ve had four movies each open above $20 million was back in December 2008, right after Christmas day when Marley and Me, Bedtime Stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Valkyrie on-screen.