Presidents Day weekend is feeling a little like Christmas at the box office, with studios getting the gifts: Five movies — "Safe House," "The Vow," "Journey 2," "Ghost Rider 2" and "This Means War" — closed the four-day weekend with more than $20 million each.
It's the first non-summer weekend with five movies grossing more than $20 million — and the first such weekend at all since 2004.
Overall, the weekend is up 12 percent compared to the same weekend in 2011 — the seventh week in a row that the box-office has outperformed last year's.
The top three movies of the weekend are holdovers that debuted last week. Universal's "Safe House" leads the pack, with a four-day total of $28.4 million. "The Vow," from Sony's Screen Gems and Spyglass Entertainment, is No. 2, with $26.6 million and "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" is No. 3, with $26.4 million.
This weekend's new movies, Sony's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," Fox's "This Means War" and Disney's "The Secret World of Arrietty" debuted at No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6.
"Spirit of Vengeance," which Sony says it made for $57 million, had particularly strong tracking going into the weekend, but while the film met the studio's expectations, it fell short of what some outside box-office watchers had predicted.
Critics did not like the PG-13 rated sequel to the 2007 "Ghost Rider," and the audience polling firm Cinemascore gave it an unimpressive "C+."
"We felt like we delivered for the 'Ghost Rider' fans and we are very much within our realm of expectations," Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution chief, told TheWrap Monday morning.
"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," financed with Hyde Park Entertainment, targeted men and superhero fans. Star Nicolas Cage supported the movie with an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and talk shows including CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman," "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," among others.
The movie played to young men. The audience was 61 percent male and 48 percent younger than 25.
While "Ghost Rider" missed some expectations outside the studio, Fox's "This Means War" handily beat projections.
Fox had figured the movie, which starred Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, would pull in $12 to $14 million over the weekend, and box-office watchers outside the studio were even more pessimistic.
But the movie, perhaps propelled by an "A-" Cinemascore, took $20.4 million over the four days.
"We were really balanced across the board, too," Chris Aronson, Fox's head of distribution, told TheWrap Monday morning. "Our top theater list goes from Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, New York, Salt Lake City, Boston, D.C., Kansas City. It means it's resonating everywhere."
The romantic action comedy played to women: 65 percent of the audience was female, and 40 percent was younger than 25.
Dune Entertainment co-financed the movie, which had a budget estimated at $65 million.
Disney's "The Secret World of Arrietty" was the low performer among new releases, taking in $8.1 million over the four-day weekend, according to studio estimates. That is in line with the studio's pre-release expectations.
Disney acquired North American distribution rights to movie from the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli.
The weekend, though, belonged to holdovers.
"We are very, very happy," Nikki Rocco, Universal's chief of distribution, told TheWrap Monday morning.
Her studio's R-rated "Safe House" is No. 1 at the domestic box office in its second weekend of release.
"To be sitting at $82.6 million in 11 days is something you want to see all the time," she said.
Rocco credited the combination of Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds for continuing to pull audiences into theaters.
The Screen Gems/Spyglass "The Vow" had a surprisingly strong weekend.
The PG-13 rated film starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams opened in first place last weekend, drawing $41.2 million. It pulled in another $11.6 million on Valentines Day and was expected to take about $21 million over the weekend.
Its $26.6 million — $23.1 over three days — surprised even Sony.
"I don't think any of our expectations were the the film could have a hold this strong after having such an incredible Valentines Day," Bruer said.
The other extra-strong performer of the weekend was New Line's "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" (above), which took an estimated $26.4 million and has now grossed $59.5 million domestically and $128 million internationally.
The PG-rated family film increased its audience by an impressive 91 percent from Friday to Saturday.
"Our midweeks were good with the kids in school, and when you get into this holiday weekend, it just really took off," Jeff Goldstein, executive VP for domestic distribution at Warner Bros., told TheWrap Monday.
He noted that Monday is a holiday both in the United States and Canada, and said he expects numbers to remain high.
Four movies open in wide release next weekend: Relativity's "Act of Valor," Summit's "Gone," Lionsgate's "Tyler Perry's Good Deeds" and Universal's "Wanderlust."