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Reese Witherspoon/THIS MEANS WAR Disappoints: Box Office

Chris Pine This Means War Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, This Means War

New entry Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 3D is vying with holdover The Vow for the number one spot at the North American on Friday, Feb. 17, according to early, rough figures found at Deadline.com. Each movie is expected to gross somewhere around $7.1-$7.2 million. Official studio estimates for Friday will be released Saturday morning.

As per Deadline's sources, Spirit of Vengeance should collect a so-so $24.5 million at 3,174 locations over the four-day Presidents Day weekend. That's about $10 million less than Ray Subers predicted at Box Office Mojo. The action flick stars Nicolas Cage, who hasn't had much luck at the box office of late even though his recent movies are no less atrocious than Cage's prior hits such The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds, National Treasure, or the original Ghost Rider. Cage's co-star in Spirit of Vengeance is Idris Elba.

Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, The Vow is expected to maintain its position at the top of the domestic box office with approximately $28 million by Monday evening. Jessica Lange and Sam Neill are also featured in this early 2012 sleeper hit.

Right behind The Vow, the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds actioner Safe House should take in about $27 million after grosses of $6.2 million on Friday. Both The Vow and Safe House are expected to be down around 50 percent compared to last Friday (which had the advantage of midnight screenings).

Doing mediocre business at 3,189 sites, McG's $65m-$70m-budgeted romantic comedy/action flick mix This Means War, starring Star Trek's Chris Pine, Water for Elephants/Legally Blonde's Reese Witherspoon, and Inception/The Dark Knight Rises' Tom Hardy is expected to draw about $17.5 million over the four-day weekend. Friday estimates hovered around $5.1m.

Reese Witherspoon hasn't had a personal hit in four years: Four Christmas, co-starring Vince Vaughn, was her last one. Things don't look as bad for the Oscar winner (for Walk the Line, 2005) when you factor in that Monsters vs. Aliens, which featured her voice, earned nearly $200m domestically, while her pairing with Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants brought in $117 million worldwide. Water for Elephants, in fact, performed relatively well when compared to other straight dramas (not horror/crime/action) released in 2011.

Witherspoon's one big flop was James L. Brooks' $120m comedy How Do You Know, which fizzled both domestically and internationally: its worldwide total was only $48.66m. It remains to be seen whether the international market will come to the rescue of This Means War, or if it'll end up as a less disastrous version – in relation to its cost – of the How Do You Know bomb.

Now, this weekend's big domestic flop will be the Studio Ghibli production – released by Disney in North America – The Secret World of Arrietty, which earned a paltry $1.3 million at 1,522 theaters on Friday. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi from a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, the animated feature's four-day gross is expected to reach only $7m. US voice actors include Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, and Will Arnett.

But Studio Ghibli probably isn't worried. Despite Studio Ghibli's lack of general acceptance in the United States and Canada (and much of the world, for reasons unclear), its animated features perform exceedingly well in Japan, where The Secret World of Arrietty has grossed $110.01m. Arrietty has also done solid business in South Korea ($6.85m) and France ($7.01m).

Chris Pine/Tom Hardy/This Means War pic: Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox.

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