Box Office: ‘The Vow’ and ‘Safe House’ romancing the top spot after a shockingly potent Friday

Hollywood knew this weekend had a chance at providing strong returns at the box office, but no one predicted that four films would gross over $20 million each.  If projections stay on target, that’s exactly what will occur.  “The Vow,” “Safe House,” “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace in 3D” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” are all set for superb debuts all thanks to different audiences.

Topping Friday’s box office was “The Vow” starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.  The romance has long been projected as a Valentine’s Day hit and didn’t disappoint with $15.3 million on its first day.  The “based on a true story” scenario of a woman who forgets five years of her life and the man she fell in love with hit a nerve with women of all ages and the Screen Gems release is now looking at $38-40 million for the weekend.

Right behind “The Vow” and completely over-performing in second place is Universal Pictures’ “Safe House.”  The Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds R-rated thriller found an impressive $13.8 million on Friday for what could also be a $38-40 million three-day. If “House” finds good word-of-mouth it could actually top “The Vow” to win the weekend.

Also surpassing its pre-release projections is 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm’s re-release of “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace in 3D.”  It’s been over 10 years since the film first hit theaters and a whole generation of kids have never gotten to see it on the big screen.  “Star Wars” also still has a passionate fan base who appear to have shown up to support the re-release.  With $8.6 million on Friday and strong matinees expected on Saturday, “Phantom Menace in 3D” could easily hit $22-23 million, conservatively, by EOD Sunday.

Another surprise is the left for dead Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson and Josh Hutcherson family flick “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”  A pseudo sequel to the 2008 hit “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Journey 2” grossed $6.5 million on Friday but is expected to be an even bigger kid player on Saturday.  Many expect the Warner Bros. and New Line release to find between $21-23 million over the weekend.

Dropping to fifth place was last weekend’s box office champ “Chronicle.”  The 20th Century Fox found footage adventure grossed another $3.5 million on Friday for an impressive $31.3 million in just eight days.  It should easily cross the $35 million mark by Sunday, but anything significantly over $55 million, when all is said and done, is slipping out of reach.

Look for complete box office estimates tomorrow on HitFix.