‘Vow’ Lands 2012′s Biggest Box Office Opener Yet

Romance starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams debuts with estimated $41.7 million, followed by 'Safe House' and 'Journey 2.'

Moviegoers are clearly feeling romantic in 2012. Bittersweet drama “The Vow” was #1 at the box office over the weekend, with the biggest opening for any movie so far this year. Co-starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, “The Vow” debuted to the tune of an estimated $41.7 million while three other movies opened to more than $20 million each during the weekend before Valentine’s Day.

Denzel Washington’s “Safe House” was #2 with a $39 million debut. “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which had already performed well overseas, opened at #3 with $27.5 million. The 3-D re-release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” earned $23 million. Last weekend’s #1 film, the found-footage flick “Chronicle,” rounded out the top five with another $12.3 million for a $40.1 million total.

Overall box-office receipts were up a whopping 30 percent compared to the same period one year ago.

“The Vow” wasn’t written by Nicholas Sparks, but its emotional subject matter is comparable with the Sparks dramas in which each of its stars have previously participated: Tatum with 2010′s “Dear John” and, of course, McAdams in the mega-popular “The Notebook.” “Safe House” came in behind only “American Gangster” in regard to opening-weekend numbers for Denzel. For “Journey 2,” which performed better than industry projections, 3-D ticket sales accounted for roughly 74 percent of business.

“The Phantom Menace” jumped from seventh to fifth place on the all-time box-office scorecard thanks to the additional boost over the weekend. The first of the “Star Wars” prequels — and the worst-reviewed film in George Lucas’ iconic franchise — has now made $454.1 million in the U.S.

This weekend’s new releases include the comic-book sequel “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” featuring Nicolas Cage returning to the title role; “This Means War,” an action-comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy (“Inception”) and Chris Pine (“Star Trek”); and “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a Japanese animated movie with new recordings of American actors voicing the characters.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Vow.”

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