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President’s Day Weekend Box Office: Washington Holdover ‘Safe House’ Scorches Cage ‘Ghost Rider’ Sequel UPDATED

President's Day Weekend Box Office: Washington Holdover 'Safe House' Scorches Cage 'Ghost Rider' Sequel UPDATED

It was Déjà vu with a twist at the box office this Presidents Day weekend as the top three films were the same as the previous week; Sony’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” in 3-D, which was tracking to be number one, failed to get a top spot, landing in fourth place. It wasn’t that “Ghost Rider” did so badly; it was that last week’s holdovers proved their mettle with audiences.

The twist was the rise of Universal’s “Safe House,” moving up from second place into first (a rare feat) with an estimated four-day gross of $28.4 million.  After eleven days in release the cume for the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds starrer is a stellar $82.6 million.

Overall, the box office in North America continues its positive run as the total for all films this weekend should be around $160 million, up nearly 11% from the comparable frame last year and marking the seventh consecutive up session of the year.

All weekend long it was a neck-and-neck race between “Safe House” and last weekend’s number one film, Sony’s “The Vow.” But in the end estimates had the romantic drama in the second spot with $26.6 million, advancing the total to date for the heartwarming crowd pleaser from Screen Gems and Spyglass Entertainment to $88.5 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which started off out of the gate much better than anticipated, has continued on that course and placed third on its second weekend with an estimated $26.4 million – generating the best hold of any film in the top ten. The 3-D action adventure film, starring Dwayne Johnson, has picked up $59.5 million so far.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” even with 3-D premium ticket prices, arrived in the fourth slot with an estimated $25.7 million. Directed by the “Crank” team, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Nicolas Cage’s “Vengeance” was expected to take in around $28-$30 million during the four-day holiday session.

“There was a lot of fan interest in ‘Ghost Rider’ and we made it for a price, so we feel good about the results,” said Rory Bruer, President of Worldwide Distribution for Sony. “We are more than thrilled with the performance of ‘The Vow’ – people love this film and it’s going to do well above $100 million,” he added. Sony chopped the cost of the film from the first’s $110 million pricetag to about $57 million.

Sony was right not to screen “Vengeance” for critics, as the PG-13 actioner, funded by Sony and Hyde Park Entertainment for around $57 million, scored a low 15% on the TomatoMeter, and a modest C+ CinemaScore, which doesn’t bode well for legs at the box office.

The LAT reminds that Cage, 48, has starred in 14 films since the first “Ghost Rider,” mostly actioners, so audience fatigue may be setting in. The original “Ghost Rider” opened during the same weekend in 2007 with $45.4 million, and ultimately took in $115.8 million in North America, and grossed $113 million overseas.  Cage’s biggest openings are “Ghost Rider,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” with $44.8 million in December of 2007, and the original “National Treasure” with $35.1 million, released in November of 2004.

“Drive Angry” was Cage’s last wide release, opening with $5.2 million from 2,290 theaters and finishing with $10.7 million. “Season of the Witch” debuted at $10.6 million and went onto a total of $24.8 million domestically, but did better overseas ($66.8 million).

Twentieth Century Fox’s “This Means War” grossed an estimated $20.4 million, taking fifth place. The romantic comedy actioner had a Valentine’s Day sneak preview in 2,000-2,500 theaters; it grossed around $1.6 million from one 7:00 pm screening. But even with that boost it had a soft debut, although the opening was near the high end of tracking projections. Including the Valentine’s Day sneaks, the gross to date is around $22 million.

Co-financed by Fox and Dune Entertainment for a reported $65 million, McG’s “War” stars Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as two CIA agents who are best friends in love with the same woman, Reese Witherspoon. The PG-13 rated film met with mostly poor reviews, scoring 25% on the Tomatometer, but a strong A- from CinemaScore — positive word-of-mouth could help down the pike.

Debuting in the eighth slot, and disappointing indeed was Disney’s animated entry from Studio Ghibli, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s “The Secret World of Arrietty.” The Japanese anime film, produced and co-written by Hayeo Miyazaki (with whom Disney’s John Lasseter has a close relationship), is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s classic “The Borrowers.”  “Arrietty” opened with an estimated $8.1 million from 1,522 locales, far below expectations.  The G-rated film was Japan’s top grossing film in 2010 and grossed $126 million internationally.

The English voices lent to “Arrietty” include Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett and Will Arnett.  The animated feature has earned mostly excellent reviews (A- grade from CinemaScore) which should help the film, along with strong word of mouth.

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