Holdovers stay strong; U's spy thriller takes in $28.4 mil over four days

Despite three new wide entries, led by Sony’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” holdovers dominated the President’s Day weekend box office.

Topping the frame, Universal’s Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds actioner “Safe House” tallied a projected $28.4 million over the long holiday sesh. Pic swapped places with last weekend’s B.O. champ, Sony weeper “The Vow,” which grossed an estimated $26.6 million in four days in its second outing.

“Safe House,” which fell a limited 41% using a three-day comparison (also in its second Stateside frame), collected $6 million from 35 overseas territories. “The Vow,” meanwhile, dropped 44% domestically, with an international weekend contribution of $6.8 million.

“The Vow” still is ahead cumulatively, with $111.3 million globally; “Safe House” has tallied $102.2 million worldwide.

In third place domestically, Warner Bros.-New Line’s solid family pic “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” grossed an estimated $26.4 million through Monday. Pic’s three-day take, at $19.9 million, repped a drop of just 27% compared to the pic’s debut tally last weekend. “Journey 2″ has cumed $59.5 million domestically, with nearly $190 million worldwide.

Not only did moviegoers this year vs. last spread the wealth among more films, those pics made more at the B.O. Box office was up approximately 10% compared to 2011.

Among the weekend’s nationwide newcomers, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” fared best, about in line with expectations. The film grossed an estimated $25.7 million in four days, with $22.1 million in three days. “Ghost Rider,” co-financed by Hyde Park for a reported $57 million, debuted at 3,174 Stateside locations, of which 2,352 (or 74%) were in 3D. The format contributed 65% of the weekend gross, according to Sony.

Fox’s action comedy “This Means War” bowed in line with (and exceeded some) industry expectations, earning $20.4 million in four days, while Disney’s Studio Ghibli toon “The Secret World of Arrietty” came in a little on the soft side with a projected $8.1 million.

At the specialty B.O., the Weinstein Co.’s “The Artist” continues to attract audiences from a total 160 U.S. markets. Pi c grossed $3 million over the long weekend, pushing its domestic cume to $28.1 million.

Weinstein distribution exec Erik Lomis said he expects “The Artist” to see at least a 60% overall lift after Sunday’s Oscarcast. Pic, which is already doing well in smaller cities like Spokane, Wash., and Topeka, Kans., will expand to upwards of 2,000 locations post-Oscars.

Looking to benefit from an Oscars run-up, Drafthouse Films’ foreign-lingo contender “Bullhead” opened at seven locations in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, averaging $6,071 per screen in four days. Pic expands this weekend with more than 20 additional U.S. markets.

Weinstein’s nommed docu “Undefeated” performed slightly better per screen, averaging $8,532 from five locations.

Valentine’s Day hangovers

A record-setting Valentine’s Day gross of $11.6 million for “The Vow” likely deflated some of that pic’s weekend perf, especially among couples and females.

“It left us some room to sneak in there for the weekend,” said U distribution prexy Nikki Rocco, referring to “Safe House.”

And while “Safe House” also had an impressive take on Valentine’s Day ($6 million), the film’s urban action crowd helped it gain an edge. In addition to the film’s urban turnout, U said “Safe House” is over-indexing in military markets like Norfolk, Va.

“The Vow,” from Screen Gems and Spyglass Entertainment, still managed a remarkable weekend hold, said Sony distribution exec Rory Bruer: “After that huge Valentine’s Day, it’s surprising to see the film have the hold that it did.” Pic is the highest-grossing film ever for Screen Gems.

Similar playability could be ascribed to Fox’s “This Means War,” which tallied $1.7 million from single-screening sneaks on the holiday.

The studio, which retreated from an earlier planned Valentine’s Day release, hoped the scaled-back sneaks would build word-of-mouth through the weekend.

“War” received a positive A- overall CinemaScore rating, with even better responses from under-25 filmgoers, according to Fox.

“I think we’re in a great place in a competitive market,” said Fox senior veep of domestic distribution Chris Aronson.

The romantic actioner, which skewed mostly to women under 25, drew interest for stars Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon. “War” also opened in 16 overseas territories, led by Russia ($5.8 million) and Australia ($3.1 million), for a total international weekend take of roughly $11 million.

Sony, meanwhile, only has domestic rights on “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” That pic fared less favorably with Stateside audiences, scoring a C+ CinemaScore rating — though Bruer described the sequel as a “guilty pleasure” for the studio, as well as for most die-hard fans.

Pic’s relatively modest budget should keep expenses in check for Sony, even considering that “Spirit” opened with less than half of its predecessor’s bow over the same frame in 2007.

Holiday family field

Like “War,” Disney’s “Secret World of Arrietty” received a solid A- CinemaScore rating.

Based on kids classic “The Borrowers,” “Arrietty” became the biggest Stateside debut for Japanese toon shop Studio Ghibli. However, “Arrietty” also saw the widest domestic release of any Ghibli pic at 1,522 locations.

Still, North American auds ordained Warner’s “Journey 2″ as the weekend’s top family choice. Pic’s 27% three-day drop ranked best in the top 10, with an even better hold in Canada, down only 3% locally. The sequel’s hold at the Canadian B.O. was due, in part, to the country’s nationally recognized family day on Monday.

Overall domestically, the sequel is outpacing its predecessor by 32% at this point.

“Journey 2″ scored a chart-topping $27.5 million from 43 overseas markets, boosting the pic’s international gross to a fantastic $130 million. Pic is expected to cross $200 million worldwide by midweek.

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