Domestically, at least, The Phantom Menace seems pegged to be the runner-up behind The Vow. The romance has a lot going for it, starting with the fact that stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams are genre all-stars. In the past, they've respectively anchored hits Dear John ($80 million) and The Notebook ($81 million), and The Vow seems to be a not-very-distant relative of those movies. Also, whether it's directly related to the season or just a coincidence of timing, romances and romantic comedies tend to do incredible business around Valentine's Day. Two years ago, for example, Dear John debuted to $30.5 million a week ahead of V-Day, then Valentine's Day opened to over $56 million on the holiday weekend. Sony is distributing through their Screen Gems label, and are expecting between $28 and $30 million for the weekend.
On most other weekends, Safe House would be a serious contender for first place, and even though it will probably miss out on the top spot it still looks poised for a strong opening. Denzel Washington has a devoted fanbase, and the antagonistic role he plays here lines up nicely with his part in Training Day and to a lesser extent Man on Fire (yes, he was a good guy, but he also was violently killing people in a foreign country). With tons of ad buys during major sporting events, the movie is primarily being targeted towards adult males and African-American audiences. The commercials effectively incorporate Kanye West and Jay-Z's "No Church in the Wild" (from the Watch the Throne collaboration), and utilizing Kanye's music has been a successful strategy in the past (see Jarhead, The Social Network, and Limitless).
Past Denzel Washington movies Training Day, Unstoppable, Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 all opened between $22.6 and $23.4 million, and distributor Universal Pictures is expecting a debut in that area for Safe House as well.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which is a sequel to surprise 2008 hit Journey to the Center of the Earth ($101.7 million), seems like the odd-man-out this weekend. This time around, The Rock replaces Brendan Fraser as the lead; this is the second of three franchises The Rock has recently infiltrated following Fast Five and preceding G.I. Joe: Retaliation. While he's fairly popular amongst family audiences, these same crowds seem to be gravitating away from sequels, particularly when they are in 3D (Happy Feet Two, anyone?). With a mostly uninspiring marketing effort (Michael Caine on a giant CGI bumblebee isn't going to cut it), it's unlikely Journey 2 gets close to its predecessors' $21 million debut. Still, the movie has already made $41.5 million overseas, and is on pace to ultimately beat the first Journey's $140 million foreign total.
Weekend Forecast (Feb. 10-12) 1. The Vow - $32.3 million 2. Phantom Menace 3D - $24.2 million 3. Safe House - $21.5 million 4. Journey 2 - $13.8 million 5. Chronicle - $9.9 million (-55%)
Bar for Success The Phantom Menace 3D, The Vow and Safe House are all safe with over $20 million. Journey 2 gets a pass anywhere north of $15 million.