Hollywood studios opened five new wide releases targeting different audiences and were rewarded with a record-breaking Presidents’ Day holiday weekend tally as moviegoers opened their wallets and spread their cash across a variety of films. The comic book actioner "Ghost Rider" led the way with an explosive debut while the family drama "Bridge to Terabithia" was a solid performer in the runnerup spot.
The quintet of freshman films pumped in more than $100M of new business over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long weekend as the top ten soared to the highest gross in box office history during the January-to-April span.
Nicolas Cage led the bustling box office and set a new career high in the process with "Ghost Rider" which opened at number one grossing an estimated $44.5M over three days doubling the performance of its nearest competitor. Averaging a scorching $12,296 from an ultrawide release in 3,619 locations, the Sony smash based on the popular Marvel Comics character outgunned the $35.1M bow of "National Treasure," Cage’s previous best opening. The studio reported a preliminary four-day estimate for "Ghost Rider" of $51M over the extended Friday-to-Monday holiday span.
The PG-13 film performed much like director Mark Steven Johnson‘s last film, 2003’s "Daredevil," which was also based on a Marvel Comics character and launched over the same holiday frame. That Ben Affleck vehicle bowed to $40.3M over three days and $45M over four days which at today’s ticket prices would be almost identical to the "Ghost" numbers. Cage’s new motorcycle actioner will also set a new opening weekend record for the Washington-Lincoln holiday session beating the $45.1M four-day launch of the studio’s own "50 First Dates" from 2004.
Fanboys as expected powered "Ghost Rider" to its stellar grosses. Sony research indicated that an exceptionally high 62% of the turnout was male while 55% was under the age of 25. The effects-driven pic accounted for one-third of all ticket sales within the top ten and posted the largest opening of any film over the last six months.
Finishing the weekend in second place was Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" which collected an estimated $22.1M worth of ticket stubs over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The PG-rated fantasy about two seventh graders who imagine a magical wonderland to escape to averaged a sturdy $7,032 from 3,139 theaters. Earning strong reviews from critics, "Bridge" was adapted from the popular novel and played to younger children and their parents.
Last weekend’s number one flick "Norbit" fell 51% in its second weekend which considering all the new competition was a decent hold for the Eddie Murphy comedy. The Paramount release collected an estimated $16.8M over three days and lifted its ten-day cume to a solid $58.9M. The studio also reported a preliminary four-day estimate of $20.6M which would send the 11-day cume to $62.7M. "Norbit" marked the best ten-day start for a Murphy live-action picture since 2000’s summer hit "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" which took in $76.7M by the end of its second weekend on its way to $123.3M.
Opening in fourth place with an estimated $14M was the Hugh Grant–Drew Barrymore romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics." The Warner Bros. release about a washed up 80s singer who falls for a plant waterer averaged a respectable $4,738 from 2,955 locations and took in $19.5M since debuting on Wednesday for Valentine’s Day. Reviews were mixed for the PG-13 film and the three-day gross was similar to the opening of Grant’s 2002 hit "Two Weeks Notice" ($14.3M) and a bit better than Barrymore’s "Fever Pitch" which bowed to $12.4M two years ago. In its second weekend in the U.K., "Music" slipped only 17% and has grossed $10.5M in that market thus far and $14.2M overall internationally.
Lionsgate followed in fifth with another date film that bowed on the love holiday, Tyler Perry‘s "Daddy’s Little Girls." The PG-13 pic grossed an estimated $12.1M from 2,111 theaters for a solid $5,732 average over three days. Since launching on Wednesday, the tale of an attorney who couples up with a single working class father has taken in $17.8M. The opening was a far cry from the debuts of the filmmaker’s recent comedy hits. Last February, "Madea’s Family Reunion" opened to $30M on its way to $63.3M while the previous year, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" opened to $21.9M before finishing with $50.4M. Both films were released by Lionsgate on the last weekend of February and starred Perry as the outrageous Madea character. "Girls" may have generated less audience interest without Perry on screen.
Older adults lined up for the FBI thriller "Breach" which debuted better than expected with an estimated $10.4M from only 1,489 sites. The PG-13 film which stars Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper averaged a strong $6,965 per theater and earned good reviews. According to studio research from Universal, half of the audience was over the age of 50 and 52% of the crowd was female. The studio also reported a preliminary four-day estimate of $12.1M and $8,155 average.
"Hannibal Rising" sank to seventh place in its second weekend tumbling 58% to an estimated $5.5M. With $22.2M in ten days, look for the MGM release to reach about $30M. Universal’s comedy "Because I Said So" followed with an estimated $5M, off 46%, for a $33.2M cume.
Sony’s former number one "The Messengers" dropped 47% and scared up an estimated $3.8M giving the thriller a total of $30.5M. Fox’s Ben Stiller action-comedy "Night at the Museum" grossed an estimated $3.7M, down 36%, and lifted its tally to $237.3M becoming the first film to spend nine straight weekends in the top ten since last winter’s "The Chronicles of Narnia." "Night" also climbed up to number 46 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters sandwiching itself between a pair of action-comedy hits from 1984 – "Ghostbusters" ($238.6M) and "Beverly Hills Cop" ($234.8M). Of course, ticket prices were much lower two decades ago so "Night" has sold fewer tickets.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $137.8M over three days which was up a stunning 30% from last year when "Eight Below" opened at number one with $20.2M; and up a healthy 26% from 2005 when "Hitch" remained on top with $31.4M in its sophomore session.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com