‘Safe House’ harbors a box-office surprise

Early returns put U thriller on track for $30 mil-plus

Based on early Friday box office grosses, Universal’s “Safe House” may come as both the weekend’s biggest winner and its biggest surprise.

B.O. watchers expect the Daniel Espinosa-helmed pic to earn between $13 million and $15 million today, putting it in the mid-$30 million range for the weekend. That’s well above the $20 million-range estimates from earlier this week.

It’s not immediately clear which film will win the weekend horse race; Friday returns point to an opening around $12.5 million for Sony’s “The Vow,” angling it toward an opening-weekend gross of $32 million to $33 million.

20th Century Fox’s 3D release of “Star Wars: Episode I” is likely to follow with a bow in the mid-to-high $20 millions, based on an estimated $9 million-$10 million Friday take.

Box office observers say that Warner Bros.’ “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” looks to pull in between $3.5 million and $4.5 million Friday, putting it in line to earn between $15 million and $16 million in its opening frame.

Meanwhile, Fox holdover “Chronicle” will likely be down 50% in its sophomore sesh, with B.O. analysts pegging the pic’s weekend earnings around $11 milion.