Nicolas Cage's Ghost Rider movies are nothing if not full of surprises.
Five years ago, the original movie shocked by opening huge.
This time out, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance shocked by coming up flat.
Channing Tatum's The Vow and Denzel Washington's Safe House, last weekend's one-two punch, stayed atop the weekend standings, albeit in flip-flopped positions, with takes of $23.6 million and $24 million, respecitvely, per Friday-Sunday estimates.
The Vow is now 2012's No. 1 movie, with an overall domestic gross of $85.5 million; Safe House is right behind.
Spirit of Vengeance, meanwhile, settled for third place in the weekend rankings with $22 million, a showing that was far below projections and farther below the 2007 film's $45 million debut.
For the Oscar-winner, the opening was on the low end. And while it was in the ballpark of her last movie, the romantic-drama Water for Elephants, the 2011 film cost signficantly less to produce than the reputedly $65 million This Means War.
For the prolific Cage then, is Spirit of Vengeance really a failure?
For starters, the movie opened bigger than any of his last six live-action movies. More important, it's hard to see Spirit of Vengeance not making good on its (frugal) budget once the overseas grosses are all in.
So, maybe the better question is: If you're considering scripts, you should totally go for the one with flaming skulls over the one that's the spy comedy, right?
Wrong. Go with the one that's got Washington or the romantically inclined Tatum.
Overall, the Presidents Day weekend got off to a bigger, better start for Hollywood than last year's, per Exhibitor Relations.
Elsewhere, The Secret World of Arriet, the latest from acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki (he produced), came away with a solid $6.4 million.
Underworld Awakening dropped from the Top 10 after a four-weekend stay. With $61.4 million already in the domestic bank, the sequel seems assured of becoming the top-grossing Underworld installment. (Of possible interest: For a franchise that's produced four movies so far, not a-one of them has come close to that still-somewhat magic number: $100 million.)
Here's the rundown of the weekend's top movies, as compiled from the studios' Friday-Sunday domestic estimates and Exhibitor Relations stats. Four-day, holiday-weekend grosses will be noted on Monday:
- Safe House, $24 million
- The Vow, $23.6 million
- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, $22 million
- Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, $20.1 million
- This Means War, $17.6 million
- Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace, $7.9 million
- Chronicle, $7.5 million
- The Woman in Black, $6.6 million
- The Secret of Arriet, $6.4 million
- The Grey, $3 million