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(Updates with final weekend totals.)
Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The romantic drama “The Vow” opened as the top weekend film in U.S. and Canadian theaters ahead of Valentine’s Day, taking in $41.2 million for Sony Corp.
The Denzel Washington thriller “Safe House” was second in its debut, with sales of $40.2 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” was third with $27.3 million, and a 3-D version of “Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace” was fourth with $22.5 million.
The weekend was only the second on record in which four opening films grossed more than $20 million each, according to Hollywood.com. The only other time was Christmas weekend in 2008, when “Marley and Me,” “Bedtime Stories,” “Valkyrie” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” made their debuts.
“All four films lived up to their potential and then some,” said Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, in a telephone interview. “2011 had some big disappointments, and people are hungry to go to the movies. It’s a great start for the year.”
Revenue year to date is up 19 percent, while attendance is up 22 percent, according to Hollywood.com.
In “The Vow,” Channing Tatum plays a man whose wife awakens from a coma with no memory of their marriage. He must compete with one of her old flames as he tries to rebuild their relationship. Rachel McAdams and Scott Speedman co-star. The film was expected to collect $38 million in weekend revenue, the estimate of Boxoffice.com.
Tatum and McAdams “are at the height of their drawing power right now,” said Contrino. “One of the safest bets Hollywood makes all year is putting out a romantic film right in time for Valentine’s Day.”
“Safe House,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, features Washington as a rogue CIA agent who turns himself in to U.S. authorities with the promise of revealing an important secret. He goes on the run again in the film, with a novice agent played by Ryan Reynolds, after assassins attack the supposedly secure residence where he is being held. Sam Shepard and Vera Farmiga co-star.
The opening was the second-best for a Washington film behind “American Gangster,” which brought in $43.6 million, according to Hollywood.com. The actor played the villain in both films, Contrino said.
“People view him as a very reliable star who picks quality, interesting projects,” said Contrino, whose site had forecast $30 million of sales for the film. “That kind of trust is what gets people to show up opening weekend.”
“Journey 2,” from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., features Dwayne Johnson in a 3-D sequel to the 2009 hit “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
Johnson plays a stepfather who accompanies his wife’s son to a remote island in search of the boy’s grandfather. They encounter giant lizards, the lost city of Atlantis and the Nautilus, the submarine from Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”
“The Phantom Menace,” director George Lucas’s 3-D conversion of the 1999 “Star Wars” prequel, follows the beginnings of the friendship between Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and the future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are featured. News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox is distributing the film.
The re-release continues a Hollywood trend of converting older films for exhibition in new three-dimensional cinemas.
Viacom Inc.’s Paramount will release a 3-D version of James Cameron’s “Titanic” in April. Last year, the 3-D version of Walt Disney Co.’s “The Lion King” generated $94.2 million in domestic ticket revenue, according to Box Office Mojo, another film researcher.
Last week’s top film, “Chronicle,” fell to fifth from first with sales of $12.1 million. The picture, from Fox, follows three teenagers who, after acquiring remarkable powers, must figure out how to use them ethically.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 28 percent to $173 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. The amounts below are based on actual tickets sales for Feb. 10 through yesterday.
--Editors: Rob Golum, Sylvia Wier, David Marino
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