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Americas found a suitable way to celebrate the long Presidents’ Day weekend: they went to the movies and spent a vault-load of dead Presidents, plus a bundle of Alexander Hamiltons (he graces the $10 bill). Each of the top five pictures—the holdovers Safe HouseThe Vow and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the debut films Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and This Means War—earned more than $20 million in a four-day weekend. Last weekend, when The Vow‘s $41.2 million narrowly beat Safe House‘s $40.2 million, it marked the first time that a pair of films had opened to more than $40 million in the same three-day weekend since WALL·E and Wanted in June 2008. Safe House, starring Denzel Washington as a rogue spy on the run with novice CIA agent Ryan Reynolds, cadged $28.4 million over the four-day holiday, to win the sweepstakes at North America theaters, according to the studios’ Monday estimates. The true-life weepie The Vow, featuring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum as the star-crossed lovers, was second with $26.6 million. And the Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which replaced Brendan Fraser as the father-figure adventurer with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, enjoyed an impressively steady “hold,” securing third place by dropping only 3% from its opening-weekend gross.
If there are any frowny faces in Tinseltown, they belong to the producers of the two big movies that opened this weekend. (MORE: See Mary Pols’ review of This Means War
A ever bigger disappointment was Spirit of Vengeance, which brought Nicolas Cage back as Johnny Blaze in a sequel to Ghost Rider. Later that year, Cage’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets amassed $457.4 million worldwide. Last autumn’s Trespass, a hostage drama with Cage and Nicole Kidman, earned exactly $24,094 in its entire theatrical engagement. If belly-flopping were an Olympic diving event, Nic would win the gold medal.
Farther down the list, the rerelease of Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace finished sixth. Disney opened The Secret World of Arrietty, the latest from Japanese ani-master Hayao Miyazaki, in 1,552 theaters and managed a decent $8.1 million. Arrietty has already earned $134.5 million worldwide, mostly in Japan.
(MORE: Read Mary Pols’ review of The Secret World of Arrietty)
Among Oscar contenders, The Descendants, in 11th place with $3.5 million, crossed the $75-million platform in its 14th week of release. In 12th place was The Artist, whose $3-million weekend take brought it to $28.1 million in its 13th week. The favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, this Franco-American silent hymn to old Hollywood has yet to break into the top 10 grossers of any weekend. Here are the Monday estimates of this holiday weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, with totals for three days (Friday to Sunday) and four days (Friday to Monday), as tabulated by The Hollywood Reporter:


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