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    Sorry, Star Wars, the Force Is With Channing Tatum and The Vow

    Channing Tatum, The Vow Vow Productions

    Channing Tatum beat Darth Maul with his own bare hands.

    And the muscle man beat him bad.

    MORE: Channing Tatum's naked truth

    Tatum's The Vow took No. 1 at the weekend box office, and while that part was expected, this part wasn't: Pegged to gross as much as $30 million, the film came away with a blockbuster $41.7 million, per estimates.

    The 3-D-tweaked rerelease of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace slotted by most prognosticators to finish second ended up in third, no, make that, fourth place.

    The George Lucas prequel, sometimes loathed and occasionally loved, didn't so much as underperformit came away with $23 millionas it got overshadowed.

    And not just by Tatum.

    Denzel Washington's Safe House blew up with $39.3 million, the second-biggest debut of the Oscar-winning star's career.

    Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, the Brendan Fraser-free sequel, now with Dwayne Johnson, did well to take third, with $27.6 million.

    Together, the four films led Hollywood to its first monster weekend in what's already been a pretty good year.

    The box office was unaffected by the news Saturday afternoon, West Coast time, of the death of singer Whitney Houston. Despite the topic burning up the social media, the top films didn't lose any steam from Friday to Saturday, and in the cases of The Vow, Safe House and Journey 2, ticket sales went up. 

    The Vow, which paired Dear John's Tatum with The Notebook's Rachel McAdams, proved itself bigger than either of its star's previous romantic-drama hits, and also bigger than any Nicholas Sparks-spawned romantic drama. (The Vow was not based on a Sparks novel; it just sounded as if it could have been.)

    Women moviegoers not only made the difference for the soap, but also for the R-rated crime thrills of Safe House. Females made up fully half the audience of the Washington film.

    Phantom Menace, meanwhile, came up short historically as well as in the standings. It was no match for the The Lion King 3-D rerelease of last fall, nor for the record-setting $35.9 million grossed by the 1997 2-D Star Wars reissue.

    It was an even tougher weekend for Lucas' Red Tails. After a fast start, the World War II action movie suffered a swift descent, and dropped from the Top 10 shy of covering its $58 million budget. Domestically, it's at $45.1 million overall.  

    Elsewhere, Katherine Heigl's One for the Money made an ever swifter exit from the Top 10. The $40 million film has grossed just $23.7 million so far domestically, and looks to be the actress' biggest bust since her 2006 indie film Zyzzyx Road grossed all of $30 by Box Office Mojo's count.

    With two weeks to go until the Oscars, The Artist continues to be met with loud silence. With $24 million in the domestic bank, the awards-season frontrunner could become the second-lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of at least the last 35 years. Billy Crystal is no doubt thrilled.         

    Here's the rundown of the weekend's top movies, as compiled from the studios' Friday-Sunday domestic estimates and Exhibitor Relations stats:

    1. The Vow, $41.7 million
    2. Safe House, $39.3 million
    3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, $27.6 million
    4. Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, $23 million
    5. Chronicle, $12.3 million
    6. The Woman in Black, $10.3 million
    7. The Grey, $5.1 million
    8. Big Miracle, $3.9 million
    9. The Descendants, $3.5 million
    10. Underworld Awakening, $2.5 million

    (Originally published at 9:03 a.m. on Feb. 12, 2012.)

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