Ghost Rider drives to the top of the US box office

Nic Cage’s flaming skull wins the weekend studio estimates

Ah, President’s Day. An excuse for America’s federal government to take an extra day off and for studios to nab a few more million dollars to add to their weekend totals.

It was an especially good day for Mark Steven Johnson’s Ghost Rider, which, despite a panning from plenty of critics, sold its soul to Satan in return for a spectacular opening. The estimated $51.5 million smashes the President’s Day weekend record set by 50 First Dates, while the film also represents Nic Cage’s most successful launch.

Still, kid flick Bridge To Terabithia didn’t exactly have much to worry about. It took a strong second place with a healthy $29 million over the four day weekend. And with plenty of other new films (see below), it was only natural that last week’s big winner (Norbit), would have to move, tumbling to third with $20.7 million. Though with $62.7 million in the bank, it has already made its shooting budget back.

Despite a Valentine’s Day opening on Wednesday, Hugh Grant’s latest, Music And Lyrics made the slightly less impressive $21.6 million over its first six days, with $16 million of that representing the weekend take, putting the rom com into fourth. Fifth place went to Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, which also took in $19.9 million – and that was opening in 800 fewer cinemas than Music And Lyrics.

Meanwhile, Breach – the true-life FBI thriller from Shattered Glass’ Billy Ray – opened with $12.3 million, not a bad start for a lower-budgeted release. The worst luck this week befell Hannibal Rising, which has been trashed in the press and plagued by low cinemagoer interest. It nabbed just $6.5 million over the weekend, and has taken in $23.6 million. Someone’s going to need a large glass of chianti to wash that result down…

Eighth place was taken by Because I Said So, the Diane Keaton rom-com, which has $34.2 million in total so far, way behind this year’s first big success Night At The Museum, staying in the charts for one more week (or possibly more), having made $238.3 million in America alone. And finally, low budget horror The Messengers squats in 10th with $4.4 million this weekend, and a running total of $31.1 million.

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