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Weekend Box Office: The Vow, Safe House Lead the Pack in Record Box Office

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By Chris Kavan - 02/13/12 at 09:52 AM CT

It was a good weekend for Hollywood as, for only the second time in history, all new releases opened above the $20 million mark. The only other weekend that happened was in Christmas 2008. The big gains helped overall totals to $188.7 million - 30% higher than the same weekend in 2011.

Leading the way was the Channing Tatum/Rachel McAdams romantic drama The Vow. With $41.7 million, it easily topped Dear John's $30.5 million total for a record debut from Sony/Screen Gems. It represents the sixth-best debut for a February film and in terms of romance only trails Valentine's Day ($56.3 million) and Hitch ($43.1 million) in terms of performance. Not surprisingly women made up 72% of the audience and it's apparent there was quite a pent-up demand for something that appealed to their romantic side. Also, releasing it close to Valentine's Day was also a good marketing move.

Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds also have reason to be happy as Safe House opened to a better-than-expected $39.3 million. It is the second-best opening for Washington behind American Gangster ($43.6 million) and is far better than some of his recent outings like Unstoppable ($22.7 million) and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 ($23.4 million). Thanks to shrewd marketing, the movie made an even split between men and women, 62% were above 30.

The weekend's biggest surprise has to go to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Despite being a sequel - behind a movie that was more of a test of 3D than anything else, the film brought in $27.55 million - the original opened with just $21.02 million. The difference might come down to one man: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who proved in Fast Five he is a boon to revitalizing sequels. The 3D screens accounted for 74% of that gross and the A- score given by a mostly younger audience (54% under 25) might signal it will have a good box office run.

It looks like the trend of re-releasing films in 3D is still a good option as Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace took in $23 million. It falls in between The Lion King ($30.2 million) and Beauty and the Beast ($17.8 million) in terms of opening numbers. While the total was less than any of the other Star Wars re-releases, the new prequels don't share quite the same reputation as the original films. Still, the total helped Phantom Menace move from seventh to fifth place on the all-time chart with $451.1 million and should move past the original Star Wars ($461 million) in the next week. It shouldn't hold its breath, if the original films get the same treatment, expect it to jump right back.

Last week's top film, Chronicle dropped to fifth place with $12.3 million. However, the 44% drop is a much better hold than most found-footage or super hero films and the $40.1 million total (compared to a $12 budget) probably spells out a green light for a sequel.

The Woman in Black fell to sixth place, losing nearly 51% of its audience (on par with most horror films). Daniel Radcliffe scared up another $10.3 million for a $35.5 million total. By the end of the week, CBS Films should have a new studio best film.

After 13 weeks, The Descendants still had the best hold amongst all films in the top 10, dropping just over 23% to wind up in 9th place with $3.5 million. Alexander Payne's film passed the $70 million mark and now stands at $70.7 million.

Next week Nicolas Cage brings his inner cobra to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance; Chris Pine and Tom Hardy fight over Reese Witherspoon in This Means War and Studio Ghibli has the American debut of The Secret World of Arrietty. We'll see if this weekends big winners can continue to hold strong and if 2011 will once again see big returns.

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