Starring a group of "active duty Navy SEALs," Act of Valor trounced a handful of movies with major names attached this weekend. The movie wound up in first place with $24.5 million from 3,039 locations, which is just a little bit less than Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, Wanderlust and Gone made combined. Overall box office was at over $132 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 20 percent from the same frame last year.
Even without any movie stars, Act of Valor's opening was on the high end for movies that heavily feature modern warfare techniques. It was behind Battle: Los Angeles ($35.6 million) and Jarhead ($27.7 million) but ahead of Behind Enemy Lines ($18.7 million) and Tears of the Sun ($17.1 million), though it was more-or-less on par with these last two titles in estimated attendance. Also, in just two days it outgrossed 2009 Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker ($17 million), reinforcing the idea that overtly patriotic war movies probably have a commercial edge over more nuanced portrayals (though of course Jarhead's $27.7 million contradicts this a bit).
Relativity Media marketed the hell out of Act of Valor by consistently reaching out to male audiences during sporting events (they purchased four Super Bowl spots) and with engaging tie-ins (Battlefield 3 was a big one). That strategy seems to have paid off, as the movie's skewed 71 percent male. Additionally, the audience was 60 percent 25 years of age and older, and 63 percent Caucasian, and they awarded the movie an impressive "A" CinemaScore.
This is Relativity Media's second first place opening in the past four months, following November's Immortals. The upstart distributor currently has five more movies on the schedule this year, and if it can score with a couple of those it will truly solidify itself as a mid-major player.
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds opened in second place with $15.6 million. That's the second-worst debut yet for writer-director Tyler Perry ahead of Daddy's Little Girls ($11.2 million). It's possible that Perry's brand has lost some of its luster in recent years, though Good Deeds was a bit of a departure anyway. Even when he's not dealing with his most popular character, Madea, his movies tend to be comedies with ensemble casts. Based on its marketing, at least, Good Deeds leaned dramatic and focused almost entirely on Perry's lead character. The movie's audience was 76 percent female and 85 percent over the age of 25, and they gave the movie a strong "A" CinemaScore.
Once again, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island held extremely well. The adventure sequel eased 33 percent to $13.4 million to claim third place ahead of Safe House and The Vow. Through three weekends, Journey 2 has earned $76.6 million, or $16 million more than the first Journey. It's hard to imagine this closing with less than $100 million, and when adding in its outstanding foreign run this looks like a huge success for distributor Warner Bros. Pictures.
Safe House fell 54 percent to $10.9 million in its third weekend. That brings its total to $97.6 million, which trails Denzel Washington's American Gangster by just $3 million. Barring some kind of weird twist, Safe House is poised to end up being Denzel's second-highest-grossing movie ever ahead of Remember the Titans $115.7 million.
The Vow crashed 57 percent to $9.9 million. That's nothing to cry about, though, since it became the first Sony/Screen Gems movie to ever pass $100 million on Saturday. It's also the first 2012 movie to reach that mark, and through 17 days in theaters the Channing Tatum-Rachel McAdams romance has made a massive $102.9 million.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance plummeted 59 percent to $9 million in its second weekend in theaters. That's a bit worse than the first Ghost Rider's 56 percent decline at the same point. Through 10 days, Spirit of Vengeance has earned $38 million, or less than half of Ghost Rider's $79 million.
Despite its decent word-of-mouth ("A-" CinemaScore last weekend) and lack of compelling competition this weekend, This Means War still fell 52 percent to $8.4 million. The rom-com/action hybrid brought its total to $33.5 million.