Box office preview: Moviegoers should fall for 'The Vow' during crowded weekend

Vow-Tatum-McAdams

Image Credit: Kerry Hayes

It’s going to be quite a busy weekend at the box office, with four new movies hitting theaters and no Super Bowl distracting the American public.

Three of the films promise action: the Denzel Washington thriller Safe House, the family adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and the 3-D re-release of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. But those three movies will likely have to bow down to the Rachel McAdams-Channing Tatum romance The Vow, which is tracking incredibly well with women and is being released just four days before Valentine’s Day. C’est l’amour.

Here are my weekend predictions:

1. The Vow: $31 million

While both Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum have had their ups and downs at the box office in recent years, Sony was smart to remind audiences that McAdams was in the beloved The Notebook, and that Tatum starred in the romantic hit Dear John. The latter movie opened a week before Valentine’s Day in 2010 and debuted to a surprising $30.5 million.

The Vow, which is rated PG-13, should perform just as well. Although reviews for the $30 million movie have been mediocre, the marketplace hasn’t seen a romantic drama since, gulp, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. And with a plethora of action pictures in theaters right now, The Vow should stand out as a breath of fresh air for action-averse moviegoers, as well as a perfect date-night option for couples.

2. Safe House: $24 million

Denzel Washington is remarkably consistent. Eight of his last 12 wide releases opened somewhere between $20 million and $24 million. In the spy thriller Safe House, the actor is once again a bad guy — the type of role that won him a Best Actor Oscar for Training Day and lit up the box office with American Gangster. The R-rated Safe House finds Washington playing a CIA operative who has gone rogue and winds up under the protection of a rookie agent (Ryan Reynolds). Reviews have been mixed, but the $85 million movie should have no trouble attracting older adults looking for action fare that doesn’t require watching Jar Jar step in poop.

3. Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace 3D: $22 million

Mesa having trouble making a prediction for this re-release. On the one hand, this is Star Wars, and one should never underestimate fans’ desire to watch a Star Wars movie on the big screen (and now in 3-D). On the other hand, this is The Phantom Menace, the 1999 film that single-handedly extinguished 5 percent of the joy left in the world. However, despite the presence of tepid reviews, an Anakin Skywalker prone to shouting “yippee,” and a computer-generated malfunction named Jar Jar, the movie still grossed a colossal $431.1 million domestically.

As far as 3-D re-releases go, we have two recent Disney movies to consider. Last September, The Lion King 3D opened to a solid $30.2 million, while last month’s Beauty and the Beast 3D settled for a $17.8 million debut. I’m thinking The Phantom Menace 3D will land somewhere in between. Teenagers and young adults who initially saw the movie as kids may be feeling the force of nostalgia, and families with younger children may jump at the chance of introducing them to Star Wars. But many adults will be skipping this installment in favor of waiting for Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, or even better, the original trilogy.

4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: $16 million

Journey to the Center of the Earth debuted to $21 million in 2008, and was one of the first live-action films to position 3-D as a major selling point. Now Brendan Fraser has been replaced with Dwayne Johnson, though The Hunger Games‘ Josh Hutcherson is back for the PG-rated sequel. With The Phantom Menace drawing young boys and Chronicle still attracting teenagers, I’m not exactly sure who’s going to turn up for Journey 2. As a result, I’d be surprised if the $79 million movie makes it past the mid-teens this weekend.

5. Chronicle: $11 million

The $12 million “found-footage” action film started off with an impressive $22 million last weekend. Thanks to favorable reviews and generally positive word of mouth (a “B” rating from CinemaScore graders), the PG-13 movie should hold up better than other recent found-footage offerings like Paranormal Activity 3 (down 66 percent its second weekend) or The Devil Inside (down 76 percent). But with three action movies opening tomorrow, Chronicle will still take a pretty big hit and drop around 50 percent.

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