Movie Projector: 'The Vow' to sweep audiences off their feet

The new romantic drama"The Vow"is poised to steal the hearts of moviegoers this weekend.

The tear-jerker starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams could gross $35 million to $40 million in its debut, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Sony Pictures, whose Screen Gems label produced the film, is projecting a more conservative domestic opening of $28 million to $30 million.

It should be a strong weekend at the multiplex, as three other new movies are also expected to bring in healthy ticket sales. "Safe House,"an action thriller headlined by Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, is likely to debut with around $25 million. A 3-D re-release of George Lucas' 1999 film "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" could rake in roughly $20 million, while the 3-D sequel"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" is expected to start off with around $13 million.

"The Vow" is based on the true story of a woman who lost her memory in a car accident and had to fall in love with her husband for a second time. The film has immense buzz online, where young women have for weeks been posting messages on Twitter and Facebook about the picture and its heartthrob star Tatum.

The 31-year-old actor appeared in a similar romance picture that came out around Valentine's Day in 2010, "Dear John." That film, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, debuted with $30.5 million and ultimately collected $80 million in the U.S. and Canada. The biggest hit to be released around the Feb. 14 holiday was the aptly named"Valentine's Day,"which featured a cavalcade of A-list stars and opened to $56.3 million in February 2010.

"The Vow" was co-financed by Spyglass Entertainment and Screen Gems for about $30 million.

Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent far more on "Safe House," which was made for around $85 million. The movie, which stars Washington as a renegade CIA agent on a mission in South Africa, is so far appealing mostly to older males and African American moviegoers.

The film is on track to open at around the same figure the 57-year-old actor's last release, 2010's action thriller"Unstoppable,"did. "Unstoppable" launched with $22.7 million.

Walt Disney Studios has found some success releasing a couple of its classic animated titles in 3-D. Its reissue of"The Lion King"last fall wound up raking in around $94 million, while "Beauty and the Beast" has made about half that much since its re-release in January.

Still, it remains to be seen whether audiences will embrace 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's updated version of the "Star Wars" installment, especially considering that the movie was poorly received by fans upon its original debut. However, the film grossed $924.3 million at the worldwide box office, of which $431 million came from domestic ticket sales.

"Mysterious Island" is a sequel to 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," which debuted with $21 million. The movie fared well domestically, bringing in a total of about $100 million, but made an even more impressive $140.3 million overseas.

The sequel has already been released in a number of foreign countries and has so far grossed $41.5 million internationally, performing best in South Korea. It has already grossed 15% more than the 2008 release did abroad during the same time period.

The first "Journey" movie starred Brendan Fraser, but the actor reportedly dropped out of the sequel in 2010 because it was not being directed by Eric Brevig, the filmmaker behind the original. Fraser was replaced by Dwayne Johnson, who plays a stepfather who embarks on an adventure with his son (portrayed by "The Hunger Games" star Josh Hutcherson) to uncover a secret island.

The movie was financed byWarner Bros.' New Line division for about $79 million.

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