Male auds orient to 'Safe House,' 3D 'Star Wars' and 'Journey'

Couples getting a jump on Valentine’s Day should boost weekend totals for Sony-Screen Gems’ weeper “The Vow,” which leads a pack of four new entries along with Universal’s “Safe House,” Fox’s 3D reboot of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace ” and Warner Bros.-New Line’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

“The Vow,” toplining Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, is dominating first-choice interest among young females at 40%, though over-25 femmes are projected to display strong turnout for the pic as well.

Pre-weekend tracking suggests that “The Vow” could earn enough through Sunday to match its reported $30 million pricetag for a B.O. tally that would rival Screen Gems’ biggest Stateside opener, 2010′s “Dear John,” which debuted to $30.5 million.

Jockeying for second place, “Safe House” and 3D “Star Wars” both are projected to land somewherenorth of $20 million. Warner’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” sequel, opening at 3,470 locations (including 2,750 in 3D and 282 in Imax), is more of a wildcard, with expectations starting in the mid-teens and extending to a possible $20 million opening. Pic’s predecessor opened in July 2008 to $21 million and cumed nearly $102 million domestically.

Budgeted at $79 million, “Journey 2″ has the potential to overperform, given that families with young kids have been relatively underserved by B.O. offerings lately. But the 3D pic likely will compete with “Star Wars” for young male interest.

Either way, Warners has positioned the kidpic nicely, as it’s already cumed a strong $49 million by midweek overseas.

Fox, meanwhile, is giving “Star Wars” a major international push this weekend, debuting the 3D retrofit in 61 territories day-and-date, including Australia, Brazil, France, Mexico, Russia and the U.K. Pic could make a play for top overseas placement, dislodging current champ “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” which has collected $420.8 million internationally as of Feb. 12.

Domestically, the weekend’s new entries face a high bar competing against last year’s top trio, all of which debuted at north of $25 million.

“The Vow,” from helmer Michael Sucsy (TV’s “Grey Gardens”), is most sluggish with men under 25, though that doesn’t necessarily account for date crowds. By comparison, “Dear John” played best on Friday of its opening weekend, before dipping a minimal 9% the following day.

U’s R-rated “Safe House” should attract mostly over-25 moviegoers, added to a strong contingency of ethnic auds based on appeal for star Denzel Washington. Twenty-six percent of African-Americans listed “Safe House” as their first choice, and the pic has attracted 14% first-choice votes among Latinos.

“Safe House,” which cost a reported $85 million, also launches this weekend in 25 overseas markets. It will begin rolling out through the rest of the world on Feb. 17.

Among the weekend’s holdovers, soph-sesh titles “Chronicle” and “The Woman in Black” look to hold well after their solid openings. “Woman,” which has grossed $24.3 million through Wednesday, could see a steeper drop-off — typical of most horror pics. “Chronicle” reached $26.6 million in its first six days.

U’s family repeat player, “Big Miracle,” will face stiff competition this weekend, looking to cross $10 million domestically.

Hitting an important B.O. mark earlier this week, Sony’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” surpassed $200 million in worldwide grosses, evenly split between domestic and abroad tallies.

In limited release, Millennium Entertainment’s crime drama “Rampart,” starring Woody Harrelson, launches at five U.S. locations, while an Oscar-nominated pair, Sony Pictures Classics’ “In Darkness” (for foreign-language film) and GKids’ “Chico and Rita” (animated feature), also bow.

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