LOS ANGELES -- The President's Day weekend box office was too close to call as the action tale "Safe House" and the love story "The Vow" competed for the No. 1 spot.
Based on Sunday's studio estimates, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds' "Safe House" had a slim lead with $24 million from Friday to Sunday. That put it a fraction ahead of Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum's "The Vow" with $23.6 million.
The winner won't be known for certain until Tuesday, when studios will report final numbers for the holiday weekend.
No matter which one finishes on top, the movie business remains unusually brisk for winter, typically a slow season at theaters. The business uptick comes after Hollywood lumbered through a humdrum holiday season at the end of last year, when audiences were apathetic about most new releases.
"I still think people don't want to stay home, and if you give them good choices, you get them out," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal Pictures, which released "Safe House."
The top-five movies were bunched up tightly, with Nicolas Cage's sequel "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" opening a close No. 3 with $22 million.
Dwayne Johnson's family action tale "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" was No. 4 with $20.1 million. Reese Witherspoon's love-triangle comedy "This Means War" debuted at No. 5 with $17.6 million.
Starring Washington as a CIA traitor on the run, "Safe House" raised its domestic total to $78.2 million. Sony Screen Gems' "The Vow," which features McAdams as an amnesiac car-accident victim becoming reacquainted with her husband (Tatum), lifted its total to $85.5 million.
While "Safe House" and "The Vow" held up well, Sony's "Ghost Rider" follow-up came in below industry expectations, doing a bit less than half the $45 million the first one pulled in with its 2007 debut.