Updated 9:15 a.m. PT Feb. 11
Hollywood was looking forward to a strong weekend, but "The Vow," "Safe House," "Star Wars" and "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" are performing far better than expected. This is shaping up to be the biggest non-holiday February box-office weekend ever.
Studio estimates show "The Vow" took in nearly $15.4 million on Friday, and "Safe House" grossed around $13.8 million -- far more than expected. Those movies are on track to take in more than $38 million each over the weekend.
"Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," meanwhile, took about $8.7 million Friday and "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" grossed about $6.6 million. Those two 3D films are now looking at opening weekends above $20 million. Early projections had "Journey 2" taking somewhere in the low-to-mid teens for the weekend.
"The Vow" is on track to become the highest-grossing Screen Gems opening ever. "Dear John" -- which also stars Channing Tatum -- opened to $30.5 million in February, 2010, and currently holds that distinction. "Dear John" ultimately grossed $115 million worldwide.
Spyglass co-financed "The Vow" with Sony's Screen Gems.
The audience polling company Cinemascore reports that moviegoers are enjoying this weekend's new films: "The Vow" got a "B" Cinemascore, "Safe House" and "Journey 2" each got an "A-."
Tatum stars in Sony's PG-13-rated movie as a guy whose wife emerges from a coma with no memory of their life together -- and woos her all over again.
While most box-office watchers believe "The Vow" will easily open at No. 1 the weekend leading into Valentine's Day, they are generally optimistic about everything opening this weekend:
"Safe House," Universal's R-rated thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds is looking at a $25 million opening and Fox's 3D re-release of the 1999 "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" could take $20 million.
The other movie opening wide is New Line's "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," a PG-rated movie that's likely to open in fourth place -- but already has taken nearly $50 million overseas.
For now, all eyes are on "The Vow." At least most eyes. And certainly most young women's eyes.
According to the research firm NRG, 69 percent of women younger than 25, and 49 percent of women older than 25 have "definite" interest in seeing "The Vow." And 83 percent of younger women and 77 percent of older ones report some awareness of the film.
That's despite less-than-spectacular reviews. Metacritic gives "The Vow" a 47, Movie Review Intelligence gives it a 42.5 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 36.
Sony projects the movie will take somewhere in the mid-to-high $20 millions, but less conservative outside box-office watchers expect it will gross at least $30 million.
The movie, which Spyglass co-financed with Screen Gems and cost about $30 million to make, opens in 2,958 locations.
Universal's "Safe House," an R-rated thriller starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Vera Farmiga, is widely expected to take second place.
The studio expects the movie, which had a budget estimated at $85 million and was shot in South Africa, to open in the low-$20 million range -- in line with outside expectations.
"Safe House" stars Washington as a brilliant CIA agent who has gone rogue and turns up in an American embassy with a mysterious mission. Ryan Reynolds plays the agent who has to protect him. The movie is tracking especially well among older men and African Americans.
In the crowded weekend, Universal hopes that "Safe House" emerges as the consensus choice for people who don't know what else to see.
Tracking shows that people are aware of the movie: 81 percent of men younger than 25, and 84 percent of those older than 25 report some awareness of it. More important, 54 percent of men older than 25 report "definite" interest in seeing it and 21 percent say it is their first choice.
The movie tracks worst among young women, only 4 percent of whom call it their first choice. That compares to 12 percent of younger men and 14 percent of older women.
Like "The Vow," "Safe House" is getting unimpressive reviews: Metacritic gives it a 54, Movie Review Intelligent gives it a 59.8 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 55.
"Safe House" opens in 3,118 locations.
While Sony and Universal break out new pictures, Fox is dusting off an old one -- but reinvigorating it with 3D.
"Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," which stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman, opened to $64.8 million in 1999, and ultimately grossed $431 million domestically.
Fox is hoping "Star Wars" does for it what the 3D re-release of "The Lion King" did for Disney: Bring it cash.
It is unlikely that "Star Wars" will open to $30 million, which "The Lion King" took in on its first weekend of re-release last September, but Fox is hoping for $20 million.
Considering Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" 3D re-release grossed almost $17.8 million on its opening weekend this past January, the figure seems reasonable.
Tracking is fairly strong across the board: overall awareness of the movie is 84 percent, according to NRG. Awareness is highest among men: 89 percent of younger men and 92 percent of older ones report awareness of the movie, while 78 percent of both younger and older women report awareness of it.
It opens at 2,655 locations.
Finally, there is "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island."
New Line's 3D sequel to the 2008 "Journey to the Center of the Earth" stars Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens, and cost $79 million to make.
It's expected to take in somewhere in the low- to mid-teens this weekend.
The movie already has taken about $49 million internationally, despite uninspiring reviews.
Metacritic gives the movie a 39, Movie Review Intelligence gives it a 46.5 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 45.
But it's the only new family film of the weekend, and NRG shows people know about it: 82 percent of men younger than 25 report awareness of the film, 80 percent of those older than 25 do. Among women, 74 percent of those younger than 25 are aware of the movie and 73 percent of older women are.
The movie has the widest opening of the weekend -- it debuts at 3,470 locations.
Among limited releases, Millennium Entertainment is placing its R-rated crime drama "Rampart" in five locations. The movie, directed by Oren Moverman, stars Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube and Steve Buscemi.