‘Safe House’ Jumps to No. 1 Spot With $24 Million in Receipts

“Safe House,” from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures, jumped to the top spot in the movie rankings this past weekend, taking in $24 million in ticket sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

The romantic drama “The Vow” dropped to second place from first with $23.6 million in receipts for Sony Corp. (6758)’s Screen Gems unit, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Safe House” was second last weekend.

The Universal picture is the second from the studio this year to finish the weekend in first place. The studio is ranked fifth in 2012 sales with $141.8 million as of Feb. 19, according to Box Office Mojo, a website that tracks movie revenue.

“It’s rare to have a movie jump up from the second spot to the first spot in the second week,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the president of the box-office division of Hollywood.com, in a telephone interview. “It’s a pure reflection of great word of mouth.”

In the film, Denzel Washington plays a rogue CIA agent who turns himself in to U.S. authorities with the promise of revealing an important secret. He goes on the run again in the film, along with a novice agent played by Ryan Reynolds, after assassins attack the supposedly secure residence where he is being held.

Second place’s “The Vow” stars Channing Tatum as a man whose wife awakens from a coma with no memory of their marriage. He must compete with one of her old flames as he tries to rebuild their relationship. Rachel McAdams and Scott Speedman co-star.

Comic-Book Movie

Sony’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” a 3-D sequel based on a Marvel Comics character, finished third in its debut with $22 million. Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze, who can transform himself into a fiery being with extraordinary strength and speed. Blaze is asked by members of a monastic order to protect a mother and son who are being pursued by Satan.

“It’s a comic-book movie, and you figure in February this movie would be able to do even more business,” Dergarabedian said. “The thing is though it entered a more competitive marketplace than you would normally think for this time of the year, because ‘Safe House’ and ‘The Vow’ are both overperforming.”

The first “Ghost Rider” cost about $110 million to make and generated $228.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Walt Disney Co. (DIS) bought Marvel Entertainment in 2010.

‘This Means War’

“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” from Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros., generated $20.1 million, taking fourth place. The picture features Dwayne Johnson in a 3-D sequel to the 2009 hit “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” He plays a stepfather who accompanies his wife’s son to a remote island in search of the boy’s grandfather.

The comedy “This Means War” opened in fifth place with $17.6 million. The movie features Reese Witherspoon as a woman who is romantically pursued by two deadly spies played by Tom Hardy and Chris Pine. The men also happen to be best friends, until they discover that they are wooing the same woman. The film is distributed by News Corp. (NWSA)’s Twentieth Century Fox.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 11 percent to $143.9 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Attendance is up 22 percent year to date, while revenue is up 19 percent. The amounts below are based on actual tickets sales for Feb. 17 and Feb. 18 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 SAFE HOUSE           $23.9   3,121   $7,680   -40   $78.2   2
2 THE VOW               23.6   2,958    7,978   -43    85.5   2
3 GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT   22.0   3,174    6,931   --     22.0   1
4 JOURNEY 2             20.1   3,500    5,739   -27    53.2   2
5 THIS MEANS WAR        17.6   3,189    5,503   --     19.2   1
6 STAR WARS: EPISODE I   7.9   2,655    2,962   -65    33.7   2
7 CHRONICLE              7.5   2,556    2,934   -38    51.0   3
8 THE WOMAN IN BLACK     6.6   2,561    2,595   -34    45.3   3
9 SECRET WORLD ARRIETTY  6.4   1,522    4,189   --      6.4   1
10 THE GREY              3.0   2,107    1,439   -40    47.9   4
11 THE DESCENDANTS       2.9   1,243    2,353   -15    75.0  14
12 THE ARTIST            2.3     808    2,877     4    27.4  13

Top 12 Film Grosses:
   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $143.9        $129.8        +11


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $1,418.4      $1,189.3      +19


Year-to-date Attendance:       +22%

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Yi Tian in New York at ytian8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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