Denzel Washington topped the box office over the holiday weekend as a comic book sequel flamed out.
Two holdovers from last week, "Safe House" and "The Vow," were neck and neck for the top spot during the four-day Presidents' Day weekend and helped push box-office receipts to 11 percent over the same period last year. Washington's "Safe House" was #1, with a four-day total of $28.4 million. "The Vow" followed just behind with $26.6 million, according to studio estimates.
"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" was #3 with $26.4 million thanks to a very strong Monday. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" opened at #4 with $25.7 million, followed by the debut of the Reese Witherspoon-starring "This Means War" at #5 with $20.4 million.
"Safe House" has made $82.6 million thus far, making it the second-best 10-day run for Washington, just behind "American Gangster." The drama looks likely to pass the $100 million mark, which will make it the fourth movie in the 57-year-old actor's career to do so. "The Vow" has earned $88.5 million thus far, which means it is now the highest-grossing movie ever for the Sony/ Screen Gems brand.
The second "Ghost Rider" film, based on the Marvel Comics antihero, opened with less than half of the 2007 original's $45.4 million debut. Nicolas Cage reprises the role of Johnny Blaze in "Spirit of Vengeance," which, despite featuring a darker take on the supernatural motorcycle rider (courtesy of the directing duo behind "Crank"), suffered even worse reviews than its predecessor. At press time, "Ghost Rider" sat at 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer, which averages reviews from critics, while the sequel sat at 15 percent.
The weekend's other new wide release, "The Secret World of Arrietty," was #9 on the box-office chart with $8.1 million. The debut for the animated film, which features English-speaking actors recording new performances in the Japanese film, met with Disney's reported expectations. Similarly, the romance-meets-action of "This Means War" wasn't far off from the debuts of similar fare like "Knight & Day," "The Tourist" or "Killers," all of which had mostly negative reviews and opened between $15 and $20 million.
"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menance" in 3-D suffered a bigger second-week decline than the similar 3-D re-release of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," but still added enough to the prequel's all-time box-office total to push it past the original "Star Wars" to become the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time. "Phantom Menace" made $10.2 million over the four-day weekend for a domestic theater total of $36 million for the 3-D version.
Two smaller but critically acclaimed pictures continued to benefit from awards season momentum over the weekend. The latest picture from Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), "The Descendants," starring George Clooney, passed the $75 million mark, while silent film "The Artist" passed $25 million. Both movies are up for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, among other nominations.
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