Die Hard Has a Pretty Good Day on Presidents’ Weekend

Bruce Willis yippie-ki-yays to a win over Nicholas Sparks and Melissa McCarthy

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20th Century Fox

Bruce Willis broke the Tough Guy losing streak, as A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth in his 25-year-old Die Hard franchise, won the long holiday weekend at North American theaters with $24.8 million for the Fri.-Sun. period, and $37.5 million for its first five days of release, according to preliminary studio estimates. Safe Haven, a soft-hearted candy sampler from the Nicholas Sparks series of romance novels, also opened solidly, but the weekend was still nothing for Hollywood to plight its troth over. Total revenue, $140 million, was off 10% from the same weekend last year and nearly $100 million behind 2010, when the ensem-rom-com Valentine's Day earned $56.3 million in the core three days, or more than A Good Day and Safe Haven combined.

The coincidence of a Valentine’s Day Thursday leading into the Presidents’ Day Monday gave Willis, 57, a five-day frame to prove that an R-rated action picture starring a veteran muscleman can still find an audience. A Good Day amassed more on its first weekend than the combined three-day openings of Mark Wahlberg’s Broken City ($8.3 million), Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand ($6.3 million) and Sylvester Stallone‘s Bullet to the Head ($5.4 million), all thunderous early-2013 flops. Jason Statham’s Parker also opened punily, at $7 million.

(READ: Corliss’s review of A Good Day to Die Hard)

Of course Willis was continuing a franchise of popular films that began with Die Hard in 1988, spawned two bullish sequels in the ’90s and was relaunched six years ago with Live Free or Die Hard. The first four films earned more than $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office — about $1.85 billion in today’s dollars. The new edition, which cost $92 million to produce, won a decent B-plus CinemaScore rating from its early attendees, 65% of whom were older than 25. A Good Day also picked up $61.5 million abroad, where megahits are made and venerable franchises extended.

(READ: Eric Dodds’ Diary of a Die Hard Marathoner
Safe Haven marks the eighth Hollywood weepie adapted from a Sparks novel, which earlier paired Kevin Costner and Robin Wright (Message in a Bottle), Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (The Notebook), Richard Gere and Dianne Lane (Nights in Rodanthe) and Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried (Dear John) as the dynamic duos. The lower-wattage Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel flesh out the lovers’ silhouettes this time, but, oddly for a Valentine’s Day release, Safe Haven goes heavier on the girl-on-the-run suspense machinations than on the kissy-huggy stuff. But it still corralled $21.5 million from Friday to Sunday.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Safe Haven)

Actually, the movie performed best on Thursday, and spent the rest of the weekend fighting off Identity Thief, the holdover opposites-distract road comedy with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, in a race for second place; in the five-day stretch, Safe Haven won by a hair, $34 million to $33.2 million. (The happy makers of Identity Thief don’t care: after just 11 days, they have the top-grossing picture of 2013, at $75.2 million.) Safe Haven seduced a CinemaScore rating of B-plus out of its audience, which was 68% under 25 and 71% female — a lot of girls without dates this Valentine’s weekend.

(READ: Pols’ review of Identity Thief

The other two new releases might as well have stayed home. The year’s first animated feature, Escape from Planet Earth, opened without press screenings but with a lawsuit from its creators against their distributor, The Weinstein Company. Opening Fri., Escape earned $15.9 over the weekend and a projected $21 million for the four-day holiday. Beautiful Creatures, based on a successful young-adult book series that intended to accomplish for witches what The Twilight Saga did for vampires and werewolves, cast no spell at all on moviegoers, who ponied up only $11.5 million in the first five days.

(READ: Pols’ review of Beautiful Creatures)
Creatures did manage the highest grade of the weekend on the critics’ aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes: a pallid 44%, which outscored 32% for Escape to Planet Earth, 16% for A Good Day to Die Hard and 12% for Safe Haven. If this had been a school day instead of a holiday, and the movies had been students, they’d all have flunked.

Here are the Monday estimates of the Valentine’s-Presidents’ weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, with totals for Friday-to-Sunday (three days) and Thursday-to-Monday (five days), as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. A Good Day to Die Hard, $24.8 million, three days; $37.5 million, first five days
2. Identity Thief, $23.7 million, three days; $33.2 million, five days; $75.2 million, second week
3. Safe Haven, $21.5 million, three days; $34 million, first five days
4. Escape from Planet Earth, $15.9 million, three days; $21 million, first four days (opened Fri.)
5. Warm Bodies, $8.8 million, three days; $13 million, five days; $51.5 million, third week
6. Beautiful Creatures, $7.6 million, three days; $11.5 million, first five days
7. Side Effects, $6.3 million, three days; $9 million, five days; $20.6 million, second week
8. Silver Linings Playbook, $6 million, three days; $8.8 million, five days; $100 million, 14th week
9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, $3.5 million, three days; $5.1 million, five days; $50.4 million, fourth week
10. Zero Dark Thirty, $3.1 million, three days; $4 million, five days; $88.5 million, ninth week