Box Office: ‘The Vow’ throws water on ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ to stay no. 1 on Friday

Five years ago, Sony Pictures hoped to launch a new franchise with “Ghost Rider” starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes.  The adaptation of the popular Marvel Comic book character opened to $45.3 million, but quickly crashed back to earth with $115.8 million domestically. Fast forward to 2012 and Cage is back as Johnny Blaze in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” but things appear to have only gotten worse both critically and commercially, as the film failed to take the top spot in its opening day and won’t win the weekend either.

Ahead of “Ghost Rider” at No. 1 was last week’s champ, “The Vow.” The Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams romance has hit a nerve with moviegoers grossing another $7.4 million for a staggering $69.3 million in just eight days. The Screen Gems blockbuster could be close to $90 million by end of day Monday and will become the first picture to cross $100 million this year sometime next weekend.

Meanwhile, “Spirit of Vengeance” debuted with just $7 million on Friday for what could be a $23-25 million four-day holiday weekend total.  The opening day figure is less than half of what the first “Ghost Rider” made in 2007 ($15.2 million) without the benefit of higher 3D ticket prices. With a Metacritic grade of 32 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 15%, it will likely be a long time before the “Ghost Rider” rides again on the big screen.

Dropping to the third slot was the Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds thriller “Safe House” with another $6.5 million and $60.7 million in just eight days. This is Universal Pictures’ second hit of 2012 after “Contraband” and the studio clearly appears as though it’s going to have a major rebound after a disappointing 2011.

Debuting in fourth was the Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine romantic action comedy “This Means War” with just $5.6 million.  20th Century Fox couldn’t sell this one despite the film’s star power.  It also lost the war for female moviegoers to “The Vow.”  In hindsight, Fox might have had more success selling “War” in April or the summer.

Holding strong in fifth place, somewhat surprisingly, is Warner Bros.’ “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.” The family 3D adventure grossed another $4.4 million on Friday for $37.5 million in just eight days.  It’s unlikely to hit the $101 million gross the first “Journey” achieved, but WB will hope for $70 million plus U.S. and higher grosses overseas.

Look for continuing box office updates throughout the President’s Day Weekend on HitFix.