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SAFE HOUSE/Denzel Washington: Biggest Hit/AMERICAN GANGSTER

Denzel Washington Safe HouseTHE LORAX's Blockbuster Surprise: Box Office. [Photo: Denzel Washington, Safe House.]

At no. 2 in North America this weekend, March 2-4, the R-rated comedy Project X grossed a better-than-expected $20.77 million, including $1.15 million from Thursday midnight screenings, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Most predictions had the sex comedy reaching the high teens on its first weekend.

Produced by The Hangover's Todd Phillips and directed by feature-film first-timer Nima Nourizadeh, Project X features Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, and Jonathan Daniel Brown. Revolving around found video footage and a "wild party," Project X was made for a reported $12 million, though it's unclear how much distributor Warner Bros. spent marketing it. Either way, reviewers didn't find Nourizadeh's party wild enough, as the film's approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics is a dismal 26 percent.

At no. 3 was last weekend's no. 1 movie, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh's Act of Valor. The flag-waving actioner brought in $13.7 million, down 44 percent. Though Friday grosses indicated something closer to $11-$12 million for the weekend, Act of Valor surged on Saturday.

The film's total after ten days is $45.23 million. That's not unimpressive for February release with no stars, but it's considerably less impressive when factoring in that Relativity reportedly paid $13 million to acquire the film and committed $30 million to marketing and distribution expenses. Considering Act of Valor's theme and its lack of marquee names, overseas prospects don't look all that great. We'll see.

At no. 4, the Ryan Reynolds-Denzel Washington actioner Safe House added $7.2 million (-34 percent), cuming at $108.2 million. That's not bad at all, except for the fact that the Universal release cost a reported $85 million, not including marketing/distribution expenses. Overseas, Safe House has grossed a so-so $46.7 million to date, even though it has already opened in most major territories. Remember, studios keep about 50-55 percent of a film's domestic gross and about 40 percent of international grosses.

Though considered a major box office draw in the United States, within the last decade only one Denzel Washington movie has earned more than $100m in North America (including Canada). That was Ridley Scott's American Gangster, co-starring Russell Crowe, which took in $130.16 million in late 2007. If inflation is taken into account, Washington has only one more over-$100m hit since 2002: Spike Lee's heist thriller Inside Man (with about $107 million in 2012 dollars), which came out in 2006.

Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Safe House also features Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, and Rubén Blades.

Denzel Washington / Safe House photo: Universal Pictures.

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