For all the hearts and flowers associated with Valentine's Day, it's Bruce Willis blowing up Moscow in "A Good Day to Die Hard" that is expected to dominate the long holiday weekend at the box office.
With Valentine's Day falling on Thursday -- and President's Day on Monday -- Hollywood is offering four wide openers. Relativity's "Safe Haven," the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation to hit theaters, is the most overtly romantic and Warner Bros.' "Beautiful Creatures," a supernatural love story set in the South, will also be date-night fare for the young crowd. The Weinstein Company is debuting its animated "Escape From Planet Earth" for the kids, and then there's "Good Day to Die Hard" from Fox.
Willis' fifth go-round as John McClane could bring in as much as $50 million over the five days, say bullish industry analysts, though studio estimates are more conservative. Second place will be a battle between "Safe Haven," "Beautiful Creatures" and last week's No. 1 film, Universal's "Identity Thief" they say, all of which are likely to do between $20 million and $25 million.
It's been more than five years since the last "Die Hard" movie, and this could be the latest classic franchise to find new life, as the "Mission Impossible" and James Bond series did with "Ghost Protocol" and "Skyfall," respectively.
In this one, McClane travels to Russia to help his estranged son (Jai Courtney) get out of prison, but gets caught in the crosshairs of a terrorist plot. John Moore ("Max Payne") directs from a Skip Wood screenplay and Alex Young and Wyck Godfrey are the producers. It cost $92 million to make.
Fox has it in a market-high 3,546 theaters. The only thing that could keep "Good Day" from matching the $134 million domestic total of "Life Free or Die Hard," which was rated PG-13, would seem to be its R-rating, but that shouldn't affect its opening.
Starting with the original film in 1988, which made $148 million worldwide, each successive "Die Hard" movie has made more money than the last at the global box office. "Live Free or Die Hard" made $383 million in 2007. In all, the "Die Hard" franchise has taken in $1.13 billion globally.
This one is already on its way overseas. It took in $10 million last weekend from a handful of Asian debuts, and will open in more than 55 markets this weekend. Russia, where "A Good Day to Die Hard" was filmed, is expected to be a particularly hot spot.
"Safe Haven" stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel and is directed by Lasse Halstrom ("Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"). Hough plays a mysterious young woman who lands in the small town of Southport, N.C., and is reluctantly drawn into a relationship, only to have a dark secret arise from her past.
With so much competition, "Safe Haven" won't be matching the $41 million debut that another romance, "The Vow," posted the weekend before Valentine's Day last year. But the built-in audience for Sparks' best-sellers is undeniable, as illustrated by 2010's "The Last Song," which opened to $16 million and did $62 million domestically, and that same year's "Dear John," which debuted to $30 million and topped out at $80 million domestically. And the Valentine's opening date for "Safe Haven" is ideal.
Relativity has the PG-13 romance, which has a production budget of around $28 million, in 3,323 theaters.
"Beautiful Creatures" is based on the first novel in the best-selling young-adult series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It is directed by screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and stars Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich. Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann and Emma Thompson top a strong supporting cast.
The story follows Ethan (Ehrenreich), a young man longing to escape his small town, and Lena (Englert), a mysterious new girl. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.
Young adults are the target demographic, and Warner Bros. has tried to appeal to the "Twilight" crowd in its marketing of the PG-13 tale. That could pay off if it connects, or work against it if it's viewed as a formulaic substitute. Warner Bros. has it in about 2,900 theaters.
The PG-rated "Escape From Planet Earth" will be the first real kids film to hit the marketplace this year, and that should work in its favor, particularly with schools out for President's Day on Monday. Weinstein has it in a healthy 3,288 locations, and projections are for north of $15 million for the five days.
The 3D computer animated movie features the voices of Brendan Fraser, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rob Corddry and William Shatner. It tells the tale of planet Baab astronaut Scorch Supernova (Fraser), who finds himself caught in a trap when he responds to an SOS from a notoriously dangerous alien planet.
The weekend's wild card will be "Identity Thief," the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy that pulled off a terrific $36 million opening despite a East Coast blizzard that took a toll at the box office.
Universal estimated that the lousy weather cost "Identity Thief" about $5 million, so if it drops around 20 percent in its second week, as McCarthy's "Bridesmaids" did in 2011, it could easily bring in as much as $30 million over the long weekend. A more typical drop for a comedy -- in the 50 percent range -- would still put it well over $20 million for the five days.