A closely-fought battle over the three-day weekend sees Safe House take number one with an estimated $24.0m.

Showing sturdy resilience, both Universal’s Safe House and Sony’s The Vow held off all newcomers over the Presidents’ Day weekend, with Universal’s action-thriller narrowly overtaking Sony’s romantic drama at the top of the US box office after a $24.0m weekend.

Safe House now stands at $78.2m and is already Denzel Washington’s eighth-best performance in the US, with Unstoppable’s $81.6m haul firmly in its sights.

Despite falling a place to second, the based on real life drama The Vow took a further $23.6m for $85.5m overall – the best performance ever by a Screen Gems production at the US box office, surpassing the $80.0m taken by Dear John in 2010.

This week’s highest new entry was the 3D sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance which grossed $22.0m for Sony to land third. The opening was some way down on the $45.4m debut achieved by its predecessor on its way to $115.8m overall.

Warner Bros.’ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island continued to impress after recording only a 27% drop week-on-week, taking $20.1m for a cume of $53.2m so far. The sequel is tracking ahead of the original which stood at $43.5m after ten days in play.

Fox’s action comedy This Means War rounded off this week’s top five with a solid $17.6m debut, which increases to $19.2m including its Valentine’s Day previews.

There was one other new entry in this week’s top ten with Disney’s The Secret World Of Arrietty landing in ninth after a $6.4m three-day opening.

In the week leading up to the Academy Awards, Best Picture front runners The Artist and The Descendants stand at $27.4m and $75.0m respectively.

This week sees wide releases for Summit’s Gone, Relativity Media’s Act Of Valour, Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds and Universal’s Wanderlust.

Estimated Top 10 North America Feb 17-19 2012
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (2) Safe House (Universal) $24.0m $78.3m

2 (1) The Vow (Sony) $23.6m $85.5m

3 (-) Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (Sony) $22.0m –

4 (3) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Bros) $20.1m $53.2m

5 (-) This Means War (Fox) $17.6m $19.2m

6 (4) Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Fox) $7.9m $33.7m

7 (5) Chronicle (Fox) $7.5m $51.0m

8 (6) The Woman In Black (CBS Films) $6.6m $45.3m

9 (-) The Secret World Of Arrietty (Disney) $6.4m –

10 (7) The Grey (Open Road) $3.0m $47.9m