Sony's Ghost Rider has powered its way tothe top of the North American box office chart with an estimated gross of$44.5m for the first three days of the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
The Marvel comic book adaptation left four otherwide releases in its dust, though Buena Vista's Bridge to Terabithiamade a better-than-expected showing in second spot with an estimated $22m.
With Nicolas Cage starring for writer-director MarkSteven Johnson, Ghost Rider, produced by Columbia Pictures and CrystalSky, benefited from a 3,619-theatre release (for a $12,296 per-theatre average)and pent up demand from fans awaiting this summer's Spider-Man 3.
The $44.5m gross ensures that the action-horrorouting will beat the $45m four-day gross achieved over the Presidents Dayweekend in 2003 by Daredevil, Johnson's previous Marvel superhero movie.In fact, it will make Ghost Rider the biggest Presidents Day weekendopener ever, beating the $45.1m four-day take of 2004's 50 First Dates.
Bridge To Terabithia, the WaldenMedia-produced, Gabor Csupo-directed adaptation of Katherine Paterson's belovedyoung adult novel, was boosted by strong reviews and Buena Vista's aggressiveadvertising campaign. Its $22m total came from 3,139 screens, for a $7,032average.
Among the weekend's other new releases, tworomantic comedies opened on Wednesday to tie in with Valentine's Day, a factthat probably limited their three-day grosses.
Warner's Music & Lyrics, with Hugh Grantand Drew Barrymore starring and Marc Lawrence directing, came in fourth, withan estimated $14m from 2,955 theatres (average - $4,738). The CastleRock/Village Roadshow production about an ageing eighties pop star and his newwriting partner got mostly favourable reviews and took $5.5m for its Wednesdayand Thursday screenings, for a total to date of $19.5m.
Lionsgate's Tyler Perry's Daddy LittleGirls, the latest offering from its above-the-title writer-director, camein fifth, grossing $12.1m from 2,111 screens (average - $5,732).
The film, with Gabrielle Union and Idris Elbastarring, reached its core black audience but could not match the openinggrosses of either Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($21.9m) or Madea'sFamily Reunion ($30m), both of which had Tyler starring as well directing.The new film may have been hurt by mostly negative reviews and competition fromEddie Murphy comedy Norbit.
Released in 1,489 theatres, Universal's Breach,produced by Intermedia and co-financed by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, camesixth, grossing a strong $10.4m (average - $6,965). The spy drama, with RyanPhillippe and Chris Cooper starring and Billy Ray directing, was helped by verystrong reviews.
Paramount/DreamWork's Norbit, last weekend'snumber one, fell off 51% but still came in third, grossing $16.8m from 3,138theatres (average - $5,354), for atotal to date of $58.9m.
Last weekend's second ranked new release,MGM/Weinstein's Hannibal Rising, came seventh this weekend, dropping 58%to $5.5m from 3,003 theatres (average - $1,832), for a $22.2m total.
Rounding out the top ten were Universal's BecauseI Said So, with $5m (down 46%), Sony's The Messengers, with $3.8m(down 47%) and Fox's still strong Night At The Museum, with $3.7m (down36%).
Wide releases set for next week's Oscar weekendare: Fox's Reno 911!: Miami, the big screen version of the cable TV copspoof, from Night At The Museum writers Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant;New Line's Joel Schumacher thriller The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey;Warner's Michael and Mark Polish drama The Astronaut Farmer, with Billy BobThornton; and Lionsgate's English-language Spanish horror movie TheAbandoned, from director Nacho Cerda.
Estimated Top Ten North America Feb 16-18, 2007
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date
1 (-) Ghost Rider (Sony) SPRI $44.5m -
2 (-) Bridge To Terabithia (Buena Vista)Summit $22m -
3 (1) Norbit (Paramount) PPI $16.8m $58.9m
4 (-) Music and Lyrics (Warner) WBPI $14m -
5 (-) Daddy'sLittle Girls (Lionsgate) Lionsgate Intl $12.1m -
6 (-) Breach (Universal) Kimmel Intl $10.4m-
7 (2) Hannibal Rising (MGM/Weinstein) DeLaurentiis $5.5m $22.2m
8 (3) Because I Said So(Universal/Gold Circle) Mandate/UPI $5m $33.2m
9 (4) The Messengers(Screen Gems) Mandate/SPRI $3.8m $30.5m
10 (5) Night At The Museum (Fox) Fox Int'l $3.7m $237.3m