This week’s box office continues in an upward trajectory, as four movies debuted to over $20 million! The leader of the pack was The Vow, a romantic drama, positioned for Valentine’s Day starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.

The film was always expected to take the top spot, but it surpassed expectations, grossing an impressive $41.7 million.

McAdams has become something of a chick-flick staple starring in the likes of The Notebook (final gross $81 million), The Time Traveller’s Wife ($63 million final tally) and Morning Glory (which topped out at $31 million). She’s also flexed her action muscles in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes movies, but this is the biggest start to a movie that she has top-lined. Tatum is also carving a career in action and romance. He was the lead in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (and its forthcoming sequel) and wooed the ladies in Dear John, which opened with $30 million, on its way to a final gross of $80 million.

Denzel Washington showed once again that he’s very bankable in the action genre. The Oscar-winner’s latest Safe House should shoot up around $39.3 million over the weekend delivering the second best start in his career, behind 2007’s American Gangster. Safe House (read our review) also stars Ryan Reynolds who had a pretty terrible year at the box office in 2011, with Green Lantern and The Change-Up both floundering. The DC comics adaptation grossed just $116 million domestically (and $219 million worldwide) from a $200 million production budget, while the R-rated comedy failed to break $40 million in the US, and banked just $75 million globally from a $52 million outlay.

Washington remains one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, crossing both gender and race barriers. His last film, Unstoppable opened to over $22 million, and closed with $81 million, for a $167 million worldwide gross, while The Book of Eli debuted to $32 million, topping out at $94 million ($157 million around the globe) and 2009’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 banked $23 million, culminating in $65 million and an additional $84 million in foreign sales.

Dwayne Johnson stepped into another franchise (just like he did with The Fast and the Furious, and G.I.Joe) in Journey 2: Mysterious Island. The family film should hit $27.5 million over the weekend, beating the start of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which starred Brendan Fraser. That film went on to gross over $100 million domestically and a further $140 million around the the world – a great number considering the $60 million budget. The new installment (read our review) has a higher budget of $79 million, but it has already grossed over $50 million elsewhere in the world, and if it has the legs of the Fraser movie, then it could gross more than the first film.

Fourth place was taken up by the 3D re-release of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace (read our review), which should take a solid $23 million. The film originally opened to $64 million in 1999, on its way to $431 million domestically, and $924 million globally. It has already made a profit from its original $115 million outlay, and tens of millions more in merchandise, and this re-release should bump the film’s final worldwide gross over the $1 billion mark. Get ready for the other installments of Lucas’ Skywalker saga to come to a third dimension near you – soon.

Last weekend’s champion Chronicle grossed $12 million and upped its cume to $40 million, a great investment in the $12 million production outlay.

The Woman in Black brought in around $10.3 million. This brings the total gross of the Daniel Radcliffe starrer to over $35 million, a far cry from the Harry Potter franchise, but a success nonetheless.

Liam Neeson’s The Grey banked another $5 million and upped its total to $42.8 million, while last weekend’s disappointment Big Miracle had a big drop (around 60%) taking in $3.9 million for a $13 million total.

George Clooney’s Oscar contender The Descendants upped its cume to $70.7 million after taking an additional $3.5 million. The film has now grossed over $120 million worldwide.

Underworld Awakeningrounded out the top ten, grossing $2.5 million, bringing its total to over $58  million.

That’s it for now. See you at the movies.

Source: Box Office Mojo & Deadline